Thursday, September 19, 2019

Lamenting the (temporary?) lack of reading

Who here has kids? *raises hand*

Who here has kids who are readers? *raises hand halfway*

I have a fourteen-year-old son who was once an avid reader. He struggled as a developing reader and we enrolled him in Kumon, which is a global company and it was AMAZING. It wasn't his favorite thing to do when he was seven by any stretch of the imagination, but even he credits Kumon with his reading abilities today.

That is...his reading abilities when he chooses to use them. Unlike his eight-year-old self who was never without a book, the fourteen-year-old has become a reluctant reader. I'm pretty sure if it were up to him, he'd never read at all for "pleasure", preferring SnapChat, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, PlayStation. Basically, <insert social media platform here> and it supersedes reading.

Thank goodness it's not up to him. A condition of living in our house is that he reads, and it is a habit for him. (I mean, I'm not sure we'd really make him move out, but I tell him all the time that reading is too important a thing to just drop.)He takes his Kindle upstairs to read before bed every night (while all other electronics stay downstairs) and brings it down every morning to read with breakfast. But, the only other time he'll pick up his Kindle "willingly" if he's been rude and had all other electronic devices taken away from him. I guess then reading doesn't seem so bad? Also, he's not stupid. He knows it warms my cold hard heart to see him reading, so it's not a bad way to get back on my good side!

I did an informal poll among my friends and acquaintances about their own teens' reading habits and many had similar stories - their child stopped reading somewhere between ages 12 and 14. If they didn't stop altogether, reading declined significantly. Yes, there are a few whose teens avidly devour book after book, but they were the exception, not the norm. There also didn't seem to be any difference between boys and girls. All were fairly disinterested.

It makes me wonder why, especially with the plethora of YA books these days. I remember being 14 and reading Victoria Holt, with a sneaky side of Jackie Collins. (Um, 14-year-old girls, Jackie Collins' books still exist! Just saying.) Is it the pervasiveness of other forms of entertainment? I absolutely think this is a factor. Or is it the medium?

The Boy doesn't read print books anymore and he hasn't in a couple of years at least. We originally loaded up an old Kindle for him when we were going on holiday rather than carry several paperbacks, but now the Kindle is his preference, hands down. Is it because it's another screen? Maybe? Or is it because of the immediate gratification? That's why I love ebooks so much. I'm sure there's an element of that with him, as well.

My husband thinks The Boy is learning a habit in reading at bedtime and at breakfast and that this will be his habit out of choice when he's older, too. The Boy, of course, says once he moves out he'll never read another book again. I think he says this to wind me up, but I'm not really sure. I hope not because I can't imagine a life without the comfort and company of books. But am I just being old-fashioned? What about your kids, if you have them? Do they still read? And if they stopped, did they come back to it?


Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I often ask teens if they read and they all tell me something similar: they love to read but they can't fit it in with schoolwork.

Schools really need to bring back the bookreport, but rather than assign boring tomes, let teens read anything they want.

Carrie Beckort said...

My daughter also used to be an avid reader. Now that she's 13, we kind of have to force her to read. In her case, I think most of it is she's just so busy. The social media is definitely a factor as well - she'd rather fill her precious few free moments on Snapchat or TikTok. Maybe we should create a challenge between our kids. They can harass each other over SC on who read more pages that week ;)

Brenda St John Brown said...

Oh my God, TikTok! It's replaced YouTube as the latest obsession. And then there's FIFA. I'd LOVE there to be a reading competition, although I'm not sure my kid would be on board with it. And yes, to bringing back book reports! I love that idea!

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