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Role Modeling Reading – How to Reverse a Trend of Kids Who Hardly Read

Photo by Alec Couros via Flickr.

Photo by Alec Couros via Flickr.

How do you help your kids — your own children and/or your students — learn to love reading?

In a New York Times op-ed yesterday, columnist David Bruni bemoaned the results of a new report by Common Sense Media, which shows that 22 percent of 13-year-olds and 27 percent of 17-year-olds say they “hardly ever” or never read for pleasure — compared with only 8 percent of 13-year-olds and 9 percent of 17-year-olds 30 years ago.

Bruni thinks this is a big loss because he’s “persuaded that reading does things — to the brain, heart and spirit — that movies, television, video games and the rest of it cannot.”

What accounts for this dramatic decrease in reading over the last 30 years?

Writing for Forbes, contributor Jordan Shapiro thinks that we shouldn’t be too quick to attribute the decline in reading for pleasure to new technology.

It seems to me that we currently live in a culture that is more heavily text based than any other time in history. People read all day long. Google, Twitter, and Facebook deliver words. People can’t peel their eyes from the smartphone–essentially a text and information distribution mechanism. We actually have trouble NOT reading. Folks are always checking their email and their text messages. Sometimes it is hard to pull away from this matrix of letters.

Shapiro says that adults themselves are reading fewer novels and long-form nonfiction in favor of emails, social media posts, and easily digestible articles with sensational headlines. He writes that studies show that parents’ behavior and the priority that a family places on reading are what’s most likely to have an impact on children’s reading behavior.

My husband and I read many books to our three-year-old every day, however I know I could work on role modeling reading. My daughter sees me reading on my phone frequently, but if I do get around to reading a few pages from a paper book at the end of the day, it’s usually after she’s already in bed. At her young age I’m not sure she connects reading on a phone, tablet, or computer with the stories in her picture books.

Still, I was secretly pleased last night when she told me she couldn’t go to bed yet because she was still reading a new favorite library book. That’s one bedtime excuse I hope to hear many times in the coming years.

Shapiro concludes, “At the end of the day, how our children read and what our children read says a lot more about adult attitudes about books than it does about the kids’. Model the behaviors and attitudes you want your children to emulate.”

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