Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Why Kids Aren't Reading (Or Why Adults Think They Aren't)

For any of you who haven't read it, I highly suggest you go right now to read Stephen King's article on why JK Rowling speaks so well to kids and adults. It's beautifully written, and it's one of my favorite authors talking about ANOTHER one of my favorite authors. What could be better?
One of the big points King hits on is that kids are much more willing to put down the xbox's than adults think they are. Why? Because kids are always on the lookout for magic.

That really struck a chord with me. You hear adults complain time and time again about those darn video games, those always plugged-in ipods, those never quiet TVs. But ask anyone in publishing: kid lit/MG/YA is hot right now. And it wouldn't be, would it, if kids weren't reading?

Alan Rickman said it best, "It is an ancient need to be told stories." And that ancient need isn't going away. But adults are worried that kids have stopped reading.

If you look at why, it's really hard to blame the kids on this one.

Reason 1 why 'kids aren't reading': "They spend all their time plugged into to games, music, and TV. I never see kids reading on the bus anymore!"

Let's look at this carefully. I love video games, as I've said many times. The gaming industry is a very exciting place to be right now, as is the music industry and the movie industry. Competition is fierce, innovation is absolutely necessary. Yes, a lot of plots are revisited, but often portrayed in a new way.

I could be wrong in this, but I feel like Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Hollywood, ABC, Fox, and Disney are all doing something that authors, as a group, are not. They are fighting tooth and nail for the next generation.
Now hold on!

Authors are fighting too. Tooth and Nail.

Here's the difference:
The electronic entertainment industries are fighting for the next generation of parents.

Who buys the movies? The gaming systems? The music?


And kids can hate it when parents pick out books. So you hand your kid Twilight because that's the one book you've heard about for young teens. Get this: a lot of kids don't like Twilight.

There are commercials everywhere, and the book industry simply was not designed to put an ad for HP and the Sorcerer's Stone on every TV in America. Authors are fighting this in a couple of ways:

Internet take over. (I love my bloggers)

Book trailers. (A different, more reachable medium)

A lot of the adults who say that kids aren't reading anymore are the ones only looking at the ads. They see the commercials. They see what's sold, not what's bought.

Reason #2 why 'kids aren't reading': When I was a kid, I wanted stories. Not necessarily pieces of paper with print on them, just stories. Even when I learned to read, I only read books that told me stories I didn't get anywhere else.

Books shouldn't be read for the sake of being read, books should be read because they free our minds with story. So parents that worry that kids aren't reading - and like I've said before, I think they actually are - need to take a look at why. Are your kids getting the stories they want from the books you buy them?

So here's my solutions if you feel your child doesn't read:

Take the kid to the library. Let him (or her) pick out his own book, his own story. Don't try to force educational or popular books onto them. Let them choose.

Also, try to remember that not all kids want to read. They want to play, to run around, to be involved in dance, in sports, in clubs. That's okay. Reading sometimes comes later.

And my solution if you feel like children never read anymore:

Look a little closer. You might be surprised.


Marsha Sigman said...

Every single thing I read of S.K.'s...makes me love him more.

He nailed the Potter books (which my family and I will always love and treasure) and the topic of kids reading. I totally agree.

My son had to read The Hunger Games for school and now is begging me to buy the series. Like I'm going to say

L.G.Smith said...

My son reads constantly. Being a boy, however, he prefers non-fiction. He's a walking encyclopedia. He reads everything that interests him on the computer, but he has little patience for novels or movies. I sigh in his face everyday.

I'm forcing him to read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman right now. I was only going to make him read one novel over the summer and then he got an e-mail from the new high school that said he had to read three. I laughed and laughed and then picked out all his books for him like a good mom. *ahem*

Leslie Rose said...

Hello Bethany. Thank you for stopping by my blog. I'm a new follower and I love this post. The 5th and 6th grade teachers at our school tried a twist on traditional reading logs for the kids. We started counting by books instead of minutes or pages and it was AMAZING how the reading increased. The kids craved lit. chats, and the actively recommended books to each other and us, their teachers. Witnessing reader fever in kids is awesome.

Missed Periods said...

I love it when I am in a restaurant and I see a kid at the table next to me completely engrossed in a book.

Matthew MacNish said...

That article is awesome. Thanks, Bethany!

Morgan said...

You have some really great points.

It reminds me a little of a time about a year ago, when I had a friend tell me he never read any books outside of school because he hated the ones he read in school. He'd never read a single book that wasn't assigned by an English teacher. (Do you know how many books I've hated that were assigned by english teachers? A lot.) Very sad.

Lisa Gail Green said...

I need to read that article! Thanks. :D What you said rings true. Parents complain, but they do have control at least to some extent. And you have to LOVE what you're reading, or it isn't a good experience.

Nancy Thompson said...

When my son was young, he always had a book in his hand. He read the first 4 Harry Potter books in less than two months when he was 7 years old. Now, well, not so much. At 16, he attends college full-time and has so much work and things to read that the last thing he wants to do is read for pleasure. He got straight A's so I have no real complaints that he's plugged into the Internet and Xbox, both for basketball. I'm allowing him the simple pleasure during his two month break.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I bet another question the parent needs to ask - am I setting the example? It's not just the kids caught up in all this other stuff!

Lynda R Young said...

It took a long while for me to discover the joys of a good book because neither of my parents read and the scool texts were painfully boring. Great post.