Although many adults believe that books seem to be more of a chore than a form of entertainment for today’s children, there is still hope that the technology-focused youth of this generation can learn to find joy in reading. In fact, in 2010 the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that time spent reading books for pleasure has increased slightly over the past 10 years, (although reading magazines and newspapers have declined).
Admittedly, in today’s digital world, leisure-time reading seems to have taken a backseat to activities such as watching television, playing video games, and texting. Because many adolescents today find it very difficult to sit by themselves without interacting with others, time with digital technologies, (such as cell phones, hand-held video games, or websites like Facebook), has replaced “alone time” which, in the past, may have been spent with a book or magazine.
The reason for this shift in preferred entertainment is relatively simple: children consider newer technologies to be more fun than reading. Considering this, it is important that rather than giving up on the possibility that our children will ever enjoy reading, we instead work to find ways of making books more engaging and interesting for them.
First, it is important to ensure that children consider reading worthwhile by encouraging them to read texts that relate to their sets of interests. This process must begin when children are very young, particularly during or before grammar school. In school settings, teachers could work to identify books which a particular child may enjoy and encourage him or her to read those certain texts. We want to establish that books are a part of the literacy that children are developing, so it is important for a child who has an interest in a certain topic to know that he or she can learn about that topic not only through educational television, websites, board games, et cetera, but through books as well.
Another way to make reading more interesting is for parents and teachers to rethink the types of books that they expect children to read. Just as movies have become more action-oriented in recent years, with more intense dialogue, music, and exploits, so too have novels. Thus we should seek to ensure that the books we suggest to our children or students are those that incorporate these elements. If we look at best-seller lists for kids, we find that the books listed often deal with topics such as vampires, detectives, superheroes, or witches, not to mention the well-developed and interesting characters that can carry a series. Clearly, these are the topics that children enjoy reading about, and therefore these are the topics that should be included in the books that we suggest to them.
If we can teach kids to love reading by urging them toward these action-oriented books, they will be more likely to pursue classic literature and nonfiction as they get older. It will also encourage them to seek to broaden their knowledge in as many ways as possible. Many children who become fascinated by nonfiction issues such as military history, dinosaurs, or popular culture have later reported that they became interested through television and other media. Thus it is clear that new technologies and printed books do not have to work as opposing forces; digital media and reading can complement each other in a way that will encourage children to read and to expand their learning in other ways as well.
Although spending a relaxing evening reading a novel has come to be more of an anomaly than the norm, if we can encourage children to see the value in books by making reading as engaging as possible, there is still hope that today’s youth will come to enjoy reading. Here are a few steps that can be taken to help encourage children to read:
- Promote books and reading from a very young age.
- Encourage children to read texts related to their interests.
- Encourage children to read more action-oriented (i.e., “fun”) books.
- Have discussions about books as a source of learning; discuss ways that books can serve as adjuncts to other forms of media to help expand a child’s knowledge of a certain subject.
- Purchase an e-Book Reader such as a Kindle, Nook , or iPad and have your child pick out books for it.