Learn to Read to Learn to Read to Learn

by Kelsey Norwood

in Education, Media, & Literacy

stack of books

Radio West is a radio talk show that I sometimes listen to while I’m out and about, and on Wednesday (1/30) they had writer Caleb Crain on to talk about an article he wrote for the New Yorker Magazine on literacy and books. I only caught the last 15 minutes or so of the interview and they were talking about the decline in pleasure reading among children.

A listener called in and shared some recent research that shows how much a child reads for pleasure is a predictor of how well he or she will do on standardized tests. The more a child reads for pleasure, the higher they typically score. In response to this, Crain pointed out that pleasure reading among grade school children hasn’t significantly decreased but pleasure reading among teenagers has.

This should be of great concern to parents! Reading is the basis of all learning and it appears that our nation’s children are, on average, poor readers, assuming that time spent reading is related to reading skill; a fair assumption, I think.

I have recently been involved with a girl’s youth organization, working mostly with girls 14 and 15. We often read aloud together and I have noticed that none of them read well; this is frightening since reading skill determines so much in academics. Kids are so busy these days that if reading isn’t something they don’t naturally love, they won’t do it and they need to! Practice makes perfect in reading, just like anything else.

Another contributing factor is that technology has really won the attention of kids. The time that kids used to spend reading is now being spent watching TV and surfing the internet, both perfectly acceptable activities when done in moderation and not in exclusion of reading.

For concerned parents, my recommendation would be to start young, first of all. Research has shown that parents are the most influential factor in whether or not a child reads for pleasure. Read to your children while they are young, every night. Go to the library. If your kids don’t want to go to the library, take them out for a treat after. Bribery is totally permissible! Young children won’t need to be bribed, but older ones might.

With older kids, I think it just takes time. Kids are so busy they don’t have time to read, so send them to bed early. They can read or go to sleep; most kids will choose reading over sleeping, at least until they become teenagers.

I don’t know what to do with a teenager who doesn’t like reading. Any suggestions?

Since pleasure reading is linked to academic success, parental involvement is essential!

Establish a reading habit in your household while your children are young and they will learn to love it. Most importantly, children must see their parents reading and they will most likely model that behavior.

Our children need to be reading more, not less! I’m glad that issues like these are being brought to public attention because a decline in reading is a big problem that can be solved by more involved parents.

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