Why do kids turn away from reading? My Opinion:
Reading is a necessary life skill. So why is it so hard to get kids to do it? I think a lot of times when kids are developing from babies to pre-k students, we give kids books to read to prepare for schooling. Babies get soft books and bathtub books. Little ones go to the library for story time. They get to pick out books freely. But then what happens? A lot!
Reading flows from an “I want to “time to an “I have to” time. In my opinion, this is where things tend to fall apart. Kids are asked to read before their peers. This can influence their self-perception. Kids are asked to read the books that are chosen for them. If it’s a book that doesn’t hold their interest, it becomes something they just work through. Finally, like myself, kids rather spend time on their devices.
So, what’s a parent to do? In my opinion, we need to establish that yes, reading is partly “I have to activity.” Secondly, we need to establish reading as a recreational choice. Just as we put a bowl of fruit in the kitchen so that we give kids the opportunity to make good choices with food, we also have to create a separate area from the one they do homework in that invites children to read.
I think back on my young adult children now and why it is that they read recreationally. One, my sister always gave books as presents for Christmas, and would dedicate them. She was a high school English teacher and devoured books herself. As a matter of fact, where she lived, the library would drop books off at her home. Secondly, I had a small living room area that I would make a reading time for. I encouraged the kids that this area should be our reading area and would check out a double order of Harry Potter books. I’d put soft study music on and set a timer. My daughter would end up inviting me to read. Since we each had a copy, we could refer to certain pages and lines of what we were talking about. This was a very small part of our day, but it has become a dear memory.
Somewhere along their development, students have lost the understanding that reading doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be a delightful place to get lost in and meet characters to relate to. My most happy days as a child , were moments in early elementary school. We’d line up weekly to go to the library to pick out books we wanted to read. Holiday library visits were hosted by the Librarian (not media specialist at that time) with special readings based on the holiday. Then, as I entered the higher elementary grades, I remember being a struggling reader. The teacher would sometimes have to step out in the hall and speak to an adult, and she would leave one particular student in charge of reading to the class. In that class, when I was asked to read aloud, the boy next to me would grunt and dread I was asked to read. This was very stressful and damaging to how I looked at myself as a reader. Thankfully, I got back on track the following school year with a teacher that took time to talk with me and figure out a game plan to make me a confident reader.
My parents came for meetings, but parenting of yesterday was simply not what it has evolved to. Today, parents are more involved in school activities, keep communication lines open with the teacher, and know it’s not just the teacher’s responsibility to get a student up to reading level. I also see more and more home schooling coming into play to ensure a students’ needs are being met, when a school can’t. Teachers WANT to meet their needs but sometimes there just aren’t enough resources to help out. That’s why it’s so important to make reading a daily habit. Some days for homework, other days just because.
What About Devices?
If you think back to when you were a child, your imagination was magical. Personally, I pictured the huge tree in the school yard as an oven, the hole in the center had a large cauldron and the leaves I threw in were a stew. My friends and I could always be found by the tree at free play. So when little ones get a device to play with and tie their imagination into a game, it’s magnified and it’s powerful to them. They can’t wait to dive into that game. But like too much of anything, it’s simply not good every single day- in my opinion.
What I suggest: If there is an area outside their bedroom where you can have a basket of books and maybe large floor pillows, or a loveseat for comfort, make that the reading space. Dig into their interests and stock the basket with books on that topic. Keep double copies of books so you, family and friends can share in the reading. Keeps book journals on coffee tables to respond to authors or characters. If possible have study music on to balance the quiet they may not be used to. Give kids a chance to disconnect from devices a little, so that their reading skills can develop. Who knows… they might just come to love it. Wouldn’t that be great!
Loved this idea at a recent stay in Sanibel. Could be easily adapted to children's books.
P.S. Don't forget I have "Tere Totes" - A very thoughtful gift
and gift certificates for tutoring or book club session for kids K-6