The ongoing debate about the demise of a generation of young people who “don’t read” continues – especially pertinent to those of us with sons who are less likely to pick up a book than their female peers. But what is reading? Kids read in all sorts of guises these days – they are in fact reading when they surf the net for a school project, engage in instant messaging on Facebook or read the rules for the next greatest (free) online game.
This topic was the focus of a masters thesis by well-known and respected NZ educationalist John Taylor who shared his findings with aspiring English teachers throughout 2010 at the Dunedin College of Education. In a nutshell, he found that young people are still reading but via a greater range of modes than their mums and dads. So the news isn’t all bad…
Or is it? I still feel that reading books is the ultimate way to build vocab, spark creative thinking – or thinking at all – about the world around us. Having just finished The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (finally I know – I gave up on waiting for it to become available at the library so bought a copy. No regrets), I was reminded of the power of the written word in transforming young lives.
So if you’re a parent, step-parent, caregiver or educator the best way to create literate, engaged, empathetic, creative young people is to encourage them to read books. This topic featured in today’s Sunday Star Times (let me know how much you get out of 12 in the quiz) which shows that kids who read tend to achieve better overall.
I’ve observed angst from parents who struggle to get their children to read. I’ve also noticed that often, those parents aren’t big readers themselves. I don’t notice bookshelves groaning under the weight of penguin classics in their homes. So maybe it’s not just kids we should be berating – when’s the last time you read a classic? If you’re wondering where to start, check out Jim Flynn’s Torchlight List or Ruth Spencer’s Don’t Read This in the today’s Sunday magazine (sorry no link yet – guess they have to make money somehow!). Maybe that promotional phrase Feed the Mind should be extended to adults too?!
My almost 10-year-old would much rather be on his Xbox than in his room reading but I’ve persisted with making him read at night – and still read to him as well. The fact that he sees it as a bit of chore is irrelevant. I’ve got The Hunger Games set aside for his birthday next month, and I know that once he starts turning the pages, he’ll be as hooked as I was. And hopefully, just like making him wear singlets, brush his teeth even on New Year’s Eve and eating his greens – he’ll be better of for it one day. Heck he might even thank me for it.