There are more people in the United States that can read and don’t than those who are illiterate (To Read or Not To Read- National Endowment for the Arts, 2007). Why?
Fact: Less than 1/3 of 13 year olds are daily readers (National Endowment for the Arts, 7). 52% of Americans ages 18-24 reported reading books for pleasure in a 2002 study. This was a 12% decline from 1992. However, this is not a young American isolated age group of non-readers. This decline was consistent within the 25-34 at 8% and 34-44 age brackets at 11% too. Why?
There is less of a focus now than ever before on skills instead of the untested affects reading has on us.
What motivates anyone to read? Interest, engagement in the topic, desire to understand, having the CHOICE and recommendation of those we trust leads us to a book. How often do we take the path less traveled instead of turning on a computer or the television?
What should you do? Reading with your child, teaching your child to learn to read, helping a child learn to read, beginning reading initiatives as a family and a blend of all are great ways to engage and model the importance of reading with kids.
To spark a child’s love for reading we need to model loving it ourselves.
Make a reading investment in the books your child reads- Read the books you think your child will enjoy and motivate them to read by sharing WHY they might want to take a look at it.
Take inventory- Discuss your child’s interests with them. Help them form a list based on places they’d like to visit, those they’d like to meet dead or alive, questions they’d like answered, even incorporate favorite television shows and movies and write it all down. Your local librarian will have book ideas!
Set goals- We all want to read more. Set goals to read X amount in X amount of time expanding the typical genre focus along with your child. Write down these goals together and visit them periodically with each other.
4. Book Clubs- Develop book clubs with your family and encourage your family to regularly read and discuss with peers. Sign up for book discussions at your local library, form a club amongst friends, hire a moderator for lively book discussions. Encourage your family to spend 1 night a month sharing what they are reading and discussing books together.
Read- Just as an athlete’s skills will deteriorate without practice a reader’s skills decline if not regularly engaged. This must extend beyond a work related focus. Developing and modeling to your children a will to read is different than having and using reading skills.
Reading widely and daily for pleasure and the syrupy sweet stories that only words on a page; I-PAD, or Kindle can tell is not just important but necessary to stop reading atrophy in future generations. We can begin to regenerate our nation into critical thinkers and readers one book at a time.
I would love to hear what you all do to bring reading back into the lives of those you touch?
Erika Burton, Ph.D.
I am amazed by the statistics on reading that you mention. I wonder what the studies would show for the age group 55+. That's where it appears there are more readers. When I visit libraries, it's the senior population I see reading books, newspapers, and magazines. Some have joined the technology age with digital readers, but most seem to prefer the printed page. I wonder if the printed page will disappear in the future with more reading material available online.
Anyway I know for my parents, a weekly trip to the library is an adventure. They are avid readers, and each one reads a minimum of 3 books weekly. Because my parents are in their 80s, they really like the large print books. Rarely do they watch television which is another reason, I think, people don't read. Their generation grew up as readers, but I'm not sure future generations will consider reading important as your statistics indicate. That's a sad commentary on American society today.
You have listed some good ideas for sparking a child's interest in reading. I think we as educators and parents really need to be pro-active in sharing with children the benefits of reading.
Thanks for the suggestions.
My husband and I used to find a book we both like and read it aloud to each other. Not to promote reading but just to be close. Little did we know that as our kids grew and saw this they just assumed everyone reads together. Teachers read to the class, parents read to their children, and moms and dads read to each other. I ended up with one avid reader and one average reader.
My point is that even in a house where reading and education have been promoted and modeled, there are no guarantees.
Thanks for sharing. I do know that the older populations do improve in reading slightly even in this reading downward slope. I think the point to focus on is that reading is not motivational for those who do not read for pleasure. I grew up devouring books because they allowed me to see the world differently. Now kids go for the quick fix of online learning.
Those are some scary statistics, Erika!
Fortunately, it seems like my kids have picked up my love of reading. Whether it's books, websites or their friends' facebook pages, my kids seem to always be reading something.
With my younger kids, I've tried to encourage reading by spending some quality time at Wonderopolis with them each day. We also have a stable of "go to" books that sit on my nightstand, ready to read at a moment's notice. Most nights find us visiting Frog and Toad or Wombat and Fox before hitting the hay.
With my older kids, I've tried to instill in them a proactive approach to obtaining information that relies upon reading. With my son, for example, I encourage him to follow his favorite soccer teams online. Instead of watching ESPN or some other sports show for updates, scores, etc., he instead visits websites and reads to find out what he wants to know. I know it's just a little difference, but I've seen how it has improved his ability to find information and critically evaluate what he reads, rather than simply accepting what he hears via television at face value.
I've found that my children are more motivated by modern reading methods than more traditional ones. In fact, now that I think about it, my own retired father is the same way.
When I was growing up, my father rarely read the newspaper. Now that he is retired and has a laptop, though, he often goes online to read the electronic edition of his local paper.
In a similar way, my children enjoy reading books, articles, etc. electronically (via the web, e-readers, etc.) more than visiting the library. There's something attractive about the immediate access and not having to wait to make a trip to the library.
Although I personally would hate to see traditional libraries and print books/magazines go away entirely, I can see their popularity diminishing with my children's generation.
While I am guilty of partaking in the move to reading using technology, I am reading and responding with you . However, the smell, touch, page turner physical connection to a book cannot be equally replicated. It can be more convenient, fun, and provide immediate gratification. However, even searching the aisles for a great book and being guided by the human energy of one who love books in a library or book store is something I would hate to see disappear this century.
Erika Burton, Ph.D.
My sons, who are in constant motion, have some difficulty settling down to read, although they certainly do enjoy the experience once we get started. We utilize audiobooks, interactive books on our tablet computers, e-readers and traditional books in various settings to provide interest in the reading itself. Our thought as parents, and mine as a schoolteacher, is that the development of interest is the key, and whatever methods we can utilize to engender that enthusiasm for stories and language will prove fruitful.
I know that when someone loves reading enough, they will seek out any source! So I work with what works to show my sons how their minds crave the same workout as their bodies. That way, the act of reading might become more important than the method.
One of my favorite years teaching Middle School students was the year we emphasized reading by setting aside 20 minutes every day for silent reading. Students and teachers picked up a book that they had each personally selected and we all read for the full 20 minutes. You could hear a pin drop. Students weren't to read for a class assignment. Teachers weren't allowed to grade papers during this time. We read. We all read. The principal read. The custodian read. Students shared good books with each other. Librarians were always at ready to help a student find a good read.
Now, I read on screen every day. But I hope our students never lose the joy of curling up by the fireplace with a good book and feeling the pages as they turn them. I hope they will always be able to get into a story and let their imagination run free. Let's not allow reading to become obsolete in the US. This is the main ingredient for encouraging imagination and innovation.
I bought a couch in my bedroom for that very purpose of curling up with a book and reading. While an E-reader or I-Pad might be a close compromise it is NOT the same. We cannot become one with a book unless all our senses are heightened as a good book allows us to do.
I bought my wife a Kindle when we deployed to Iraq. She loaded it with books and it helped her get through the "adventure". Once returning she still reads the Kindle practically every night. I'm old school and prefer a real book. Fortunately, over the years wonderful people have sent literally thousands of books for Soldiers to read and I read more in ten months than I did in the previous ten years! We both take the 'ol trip to Barnes & Noble regularly, buy a book or she finds one to download... As long as we have libraries, we'll have REAL books, thankfully.
Sam, First off, thanks to you and your wife for serving! I am curious, so were you and your wife deployed together, same unit? My husband just got back from his Navy deployment and he caught up on a lot of books. So, do you find that many/most military members read books during deployment? If so, I wonder how many of them read books before for leisure or how many took up reading once they were deployed to, like you said, "help them get through the adventure". I am going to ask my husband the same thing. I have a feeling he was a reader before.
I enjoy both paper books and ebooks, and appreciate their different pros and cons (ecofriendly, convenience, portability, sensory experience, etc) but the observation that has amused me most came from my husband when I was trying to decide to take a book or an iPad on a long flight. He said "Books never run out of batteries." That made me laugh. Chalk up one for simplicity!
We did the same, D.E.A.R. - Drop Everything and Read a few years back. It was great,the entire school read at the same time. Then, alas another great idea fairy came along and more emphasis was put on state test scores in math, so we had to rest those precious reading moments... Now we're back to realizing that maybe the math scores are down because the students can't read the word problems - go figure.
This math teacher totally agrees with the importance of being able to read! Story problems are very difficult if student reading skills are poor. The education pendulum will swing back and reading will take center stage. In the meantime, it is up to all of us, administrators, teachers, and parents to encourage reading in our youth.
In one school I taught in, we had a beautiful white, long-eared rabbit who lived in the library and would sit with students while they read to him. Rabbit (and he had various names depending on who was holding him) had to leave when the custodian complained about the little pellets he found around. However, reading to one's dog is another great way to get some reading experience and dog is not critical, just happy to have the attention.
After reading most of the replies here, I was feeling inapt since I would fall into the 34-44 bracket that has had a decline in reading. It wasn’t until I got to Duane’s posting that I could relate since he made references to reading online. Once I get my 3 kids to bed (and yes, I do read them stories before bedtime) I really look forward to grabbing my computer and reading a variety of venues online. My husband will escape to the bed with a book to read and I have tried to join him, but I can usually only last 2 pages before I am fast asleep. However, if I am reading online, I could read for hours. My interests range from reading articles for work, reading stories on Oprah, News on Yahoo or reading postings from my online course and this Community.
Interesting facts for sure on reading. I've been teaching for over 11 years and have noticed through the years that young people enjoy reading less and less. I encourage my elementary students to read and get a huge kick out of reading aloud to them. Most really enjoy hearing a book read to them, but many do not like to read.
My wife and I read with our boys at night, never bought them a Playstation/X-box or other video games. We even went a couple of years without cable tv as they grew up. Amazingly, they both are in college and enjoy reading a great deal. I'm not sure what the motivating factor is, but I do feel that if you provide lots of good reading material that they find an interest in and limit the "video" they might just appreciate reading a good book...
Christine's reply to your original question came through at the exact time I was attending our monthly TAR (Teacher's as Readers) book club meeting in our school library this afternoon. Our group discussion was an exact mirror of the points you mentioned in your post. Since it is fresh on my mind I will share a few of the ideas we discussed while brainstorming the issue:
1. At the beginning of school, video tape or take stills of the places in your home where you read, i.e., the newspaper open on the kitchen table, the stacks of books on the bedside table, the favorite reading chair with an open book, or the patio table with book. Share these visuals with students the first week of school, then have them document their reading life in a visual way.
2. Teachers hang signs on the doors outside the classroom showing the book they are currently reading. Encourage dialog with students and ask for their recommendations.
3. Have classroom teachers check out books for themselves when they pick up student from the library. Announce DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time every day in class and students and the teacher pick up their books and read for a period of time.
4. Encourage family read aloud time and counsel our parents to continue this practice even when students are able to read themselves.
5. As you mentioned, choice is important for students. We discussed how to handle supporting student choice when the chosen book is one that may contain themes that as teachers we do not particularly care for. We should try to find something, one part of the plot, or a character that we can identify with to engage in a discussion about just a portion of the book in order to support the student's reading life.
The timeliness of our discussion and this post with the many replies suggests we are on track to turn around the trend of a decline in reading for pleasure.
I love when the ideas are right there at your finger tips!
I find the more fiction I read the better ideas I have aligned with the way kids think. My district has a half day program as well. However, many opt for the enrichment classes to extend the day which use PBL techniques. It would be wonderful to have kids in full day universally. We expect so much from even those short 6 hours including lunch and time to run and play.
In my small world at home, reading is not becoming obselete. In fact, as a family we try to squeeze in reading whenever we can. I see that in many cases, reading was a priority in the classroom and testing is now becoming the main focus. I would like to see the two be blended. I know in my Kindergarten class, that went from a full day cut to a half day, our focus is trying to get them to read. Yet, there is very little time to squeeze in stories that students fall in love with and want read over and over again. I think that the planning time and use of literature is critical, which requires, us as educators to read more!
I believe schoosl have so much to do with our love of reading. Elementary schools open children to a world of great books and student choices. The kids love the books they read because most of the time they are what the students want to read. My daughter reads classics like Treasure Island and The Secret Garden because she likes them, not because they are assigned.
In middle school, it is still pretty good. Students still have choices ad the books are still engaging. Students still have the freedom to choose and enjoy books that they like.
High school ( the grades I teach) is where reading is killed. Myself and one other English teacher at my school are the only ones who have classroom libraries full of varied and interesting fiction and non-fiction. Our students also get class time to read these books. Luckily we have a school library because my students quickly run out of titles. We are the exception though. The few books found in other teachers rooms are favorites of the teachers, not students. Many teachers won't read "books for kids" and many of them do not read for pleasure. High school is where books are the assigned novels, short stories, fiction and non-fiction mandated for class. Reading for pleasure is on a student's own time and is not valued by high school teachers.
If we want students to read, we need to model for them, suggest titles and promote it. Every high school English class should have a vibrant and interesting class library where students can access great books and teachers demonstrate the value of reading. Reading should be a source of pleasure for students, not a chore.
I love that you promote beyond the years typically deemed as necessary. I cringe when my children share that they are not pushed by a librarian to find books that interest them but simply left to wander during school library time. The opposite is true for her classroom teacher. She gives a qualitative and quantitative review to help her class select books for independent reading time using a reading log, interest inventory, 5 hand approach, and varied genres.
I am glad you still make suggestions that make a difference in reading choices to much older children!
If your daughter is motivated to read on a Kindle, then she should read on a Kindle. Does it matter whether she is holding a book in her hand or reading on an electronic device – either way she is reading. My brother was not a very avid reader when he was young and my mother and father bought Classic Comic Books for him. He loved reading those and eventually moved into reading a series about a young sports hero (kind of the male version of the Nancy Drew series). Today he is a very avid reader and I often have thought that is due to my mother and father finding a way to make reading fun and exciting to him. If the Kindle makes it fun and exciting, go for it
I just had to share that I thought maybe reading motivation could be improved with a Kindle for my oldest daughter who has lately been reluctant to pick up a book unless reading for her required daily homework. However, it's the book and not the technological device that truly sparks a child's continued interest and motivation.
I found this out after buying the Kindle and my daughter asking me I read my copy of The Hunger Games.
I'm biased because I have a B.A. and M.A. in literature, so I like to read a lot all of the time. But for folks who aren't as interested in reading, I agree with you, Erika, in that the disinterest is sometimes a factor of reluctant readers not finding the right genre, author, or series that plays to their interests. Or they need something to jab their curiosity, like the books/book series that get adapted into film--> I know people who started reading The Hunger Games in anticipation of the movie. Or Harry Potter because of word of mouth. Or more adult fodder like Game of Thrones, the Sookie Stackhouse series (True Blood), or The Vampire Diaries because they've become popular TV shows. Since America's such a visual culture, finding connections between visual media and textual media can help reform visual consumers into textual consumers (which plays well to e-readers). And I believe there's an author out there for everyone, but you have to weed through reviews and summaries, or just book shelves, to figure out what you like.
I've actually been converted into an appreciator of e-readers like Kindle and Nooks (the latter of which I own) or Kindle/Nook apps for other electronic devices. For some people who are dependent upon technological devices, having an e-reader makes reading that much more accessible and intuitive because they can flip from their news pegs to their downloaded movies to their reading app with the simple press of a finger. It's no longer a "chore" to go to a store and browse; it's all there in the device. And there's an anonymity where you can read anything you want without a book cover to advertise to others what you're doing. Some people get embarrassed caught reading because, sadly, they associate reading with "work" or something derogatory like "being nerdy" or "a bookworm." For folks who don't mind/like/love reading, e-readers allow us access many books without the shoulder/back pain of carrying many actual books around with us. (And for someone like me who sometimes flips between two books at a time, it's significantly easier on me to use a device). I still appreciate tangible books because I love the feel, the smell, the weight of them, but I think that at the end of the day, regardless of the tool I'm using, I'm still engaged in the act of reading. Willingly.
I just read an encouraging article in The Journal titled, "Texting Generation More Likely To Read Books and Use the Library Than Older Americans," (June 25, 2013) that suggests that Americans aged 16 to 29 actually read more books and use the library more than those aged 30 and up. The article states that "a full 75 percent of Americans aged 16 to 29 reported reading a book in print within the last year versus just 64 percent of older adults. (That jumps to 85 percent for those in the 16 to 17 age bracket.)"
It also mentions that "E-book readership is not nearly as high, but it is on the rise for both younger and older Americans."
Are you surprised with the research findings cited in this article? Do you agree that the younger generation is reading more and using library resources more frequently than older Americans?