I’m still struggling with this like many parents are. Maddie is supposed to be reading Wonder for class this month. And she mostly is reading it but some days she just skims through to answer the list of comprehension questions her teacher has given her (she’s also already seen the movie).
So, I read How to Get Your Screen-loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure by Kaye Newton because I’d mentioned here that I would (and I’m big on “follow-thru”;>). I was hoping for a really compelling argument for why we should be nudging our kids to read for pleasure. It’s actually a really great read and I highlighted the bejesus out of it but I still stand by the opinion that even when given ample opportunity, guidance, and lots of nudging some children don’t want to read for pleasure. Period.
Author James Patterson feels differently apparently. According to Newton, he says that encouraging reading is a parental responsibility like “teaching your teens to parallel park or to cease slurping milk directly out of their cereal bowls. While they may not appreciate your interactions now, down the line, they will.” But wait! When my father told me to take my elbows off the dinner table repeatedly, I was annoyed but I did it and now I don’t ever put my elbows on a dinner table – simple etiquette. But my father also tried to make me a competitive tennis player. He really pushed me and no matter what he did I just didn’t have that killer instinct, that competitiveness. I was a decent player but playing to win just wasn’t in me. And like competitiveness, I think enjoying reading is essentially a personality trait that is just either something you’re born with or maybe not so much.
There are other factors at work here, namely getting kids off the screens. I’ve worked hard at this. We’ve gone through times where my kids have pretty much been addicted to some game or some YouTube channel. And I mightily believe that staring at a video game for hours just can’t possibly be anything but bad for you. Newton notes that parents ask, “‘Is my child just not a reader? Are some children born readers, and others born PlayStation gamers?'” Hmmm, good question but I’d have to say “No.” Even I like playing video games when given the opportunity – and I can get caught up in it for hours if I’m not careful. There is something addictive about screens, and especially about video games (the binging and dinging and reward satisfaction every few minutes) whereas reading doesn’t have that addictive quality about it. It’s pleasurable but not addictive – it’s pleasurable like knitting or sketching. And there are quite a few books that have been written on screen addiction. I’m currently reading Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age, which makes me want to remove all screens from our house for good. (I have actually made my kids cut waaaaaaay back on iPad time, and it’s such a good thing, and to my utter surprise they kind of like that I’ve done that – and it’s just another example of how kids crave boundaries and rules).
So, definitely get your hands on How to Get Your Screen Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure if only for the second half of the book where she compiles lists of books for ages, abilities, etc. Also, if you are ready to throw your childs’ iPad or phone out the window, check out Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age, which has some very reasonable recommendations on how to limit screen time (with a lot of research on why it’s so important to do so…it’s also one of the very few books on this increasingly important topic.)
And there you go!