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Monday, July 15, 2013

Soapboxing: A Decrease in Reading in Younger Generations

I know, I know. You can argue that I'm among the younger ones of this generation as well. I mean, I'm only 18 years old. But it still completely tears me apart inside to see 5 - 10 year old children that don't read. So, let's begin...

I've noticed this unfortunate trend because I work at a library. I don't know about any of you, but I really love the national reading program to get children reading. This years theme is Dig Into Reading and the cute dinosaurs and bug prizes seem to really have the kids participating excited. The more books you read, the more little prizes you win and the more chances you get at winning the bigger prizes, like stuffed animals or ant farms, or huge life-size blown up t-rex's. The list and the fun is infinite. And it's a point of pride that in my library consortium consisting of about 75 other libraries, my library has always finished somewhere in the top 10 libraries. But this year, we have the least amount of kids signed up that have ever signed up despite the fact that my area experienced some sort of mini baby-boom a few years ago.

And you want to know what the excuse is every time we ask if a child would like to join?

No, thanks! I've got too much reading for school!

I love the fact that the schools are giving the kids more reading, but they're making them hate reading. When I was younger, I was given a list of about 20 different books each summer and I could pick any one I wanted. There was books for boys, books for girls, books about princesses, books about sports. There was something for everyone. Now, the kids are given two assigned books: one biography and another non-fiction book. And they're long, monotonous, and boring. It's making these kids hate reading. I literally see this face all the time when parents take kids to the library to try to get them to read their summer reading.

The face just screams: READING SUCKS!

Again, I'm beginning college in September and I still sit here sometime and run screaming for the hills when I am assigned a required non-fiction reading book. If I don't like them now, I most definitely hated them when I was younger and still learning how to read. If a book didn't have cute animals, a paranormal aspect, or something fairytale-like in it, I would not pick it up. And I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that a majority of the younger kids today share similar sentiments.

Time after time I've had parents rant to me about this, about how their kids just won't read anymore because it's taking them forever to get through these uninteresting non-fiction books. Some parents don't like this either. And I feel as if it's a true problem because reading is so important to me and a great majority of people who will probably read this post. I've seen the most eager beginning readers stop reading because the material their school provided them just made them fall asleep. And while I understand the importance of pushing non-fiction books because of educational purposes, I think school's could go about it in different ways. Their attempt to expand a readers horizons is not going well right now.

I'd be more compelled to read such a book in a classroom setting as opposed to at home in the summer. Anything I read in the summer, I would want to be fun and I would want to enjoy it. The summer is not for suffering! The summer is for fun! In the classroom we can read it as a group on a schedule set by a teacher and we can ask questions. I think that younger readers would benefit more from that then their parents telling them they have to finish a book that they hate.

Perhaps they can push such a thing for older kids instead of beginning readers. You know, those kids who are beginning to prepare for the fact that they're going to have to write essays with books as sources that they must read to glean information from. Odds are those kids still hate nonfiction books too (I know I did!) but they'll be more likely to read said books because they're going to have to in order to continue on with their education in the near future. Plus, it doesn't ruin the amazing thing that is reading for them since they have been reading for so long. By this point in their education they'd figure out by themselves whether they're dedicated readers or not. They wouldn't have the option forced away by bad reading material.

I end up in reading funk's after reading a single bad book. It could take me a few days to get back into reading. A kid who doesn't really understand what reading can do for them because they're still learning to read just gives it all up and misses out on the opportunities that it can offer at the first sign of a bad book. And when these books are getting handed to them so young the results seem to be bad. No bueno, people! Witnessing this for the past two months does not make me a happy camper.

What's your stance on this issue? Is something similar to this happening near you? Do you think there's a better way that school's can go about introducing non-fiction reading materials to young students?

Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Soapboxing is our platform for talking about books and book-related topics that matter to us. Soapboxing posts may be rants, they may highlight awesome or terrifying trends, or they might tackle bookish issues on our minds...
The content will vary but the posts will (hopefully) never be boring!

I'm a 18 year old from a small town in New Jersey that's a newcomer to the book blogging world. Because I am an incoming senior in high school the closest thing that I have to a job is being a volunteer at the town library, so I spend most of my time reading and persuading my parents to let me buy more books!

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16 People left their mark' :

  1. Great post, Lili! I never had mandatory summer reading when I was a kid but I can see why they'd be put off by a limited, dry selection. But hopefully they'll see that there are lts of awesome books out there.

    1. I'm hoping these kids turn around :/ It's beginning to be a problem in our children's department that these kids are so against reading right now.

  2. I am a teacher in elementary and I totally agree! My goal us to get my students to love reading! I provide in my personal library in class high interest books to spark that love and my reading centers are only reading based

  3. Not worksheets. Still my students don't go to library in area to check out there own books. Not sure how to get them to even with me going and getting books to show what is at library in area.

    1. Tina, that's amazing! I wouldn't mind doing an interactive worksheet on a book if I read it. When I was younger a teacher would have us write a paragraph on why we loved or disliked a book and if we could explain a plot point in the book than we'd get a star to go on this board towards a prize and such.

      Reading should be fun and encouraged and I think you're doing just that!

  4. My friend's kids have a summer reading list of the most boring books imaginable. They are expected to write a test on these books the first week of school, so I can see why they don't want to read.

    I think that if you want your children to read, then you need to make it fun. I used to post a picture of a tree up in the kitchen. Each book read got a leaf and when there were a certain number of leaves, the kids got a treat. That worked for 1 kid.

    Audio books should not be discounted - A child who has difficulty reading can follow along with a paper book and an audio book. My then 12 year old was listening to the Amulet of Samarkand and reading the book at the same time.

    I bought my 17 year old a Kobo mini (a bargain at $40) and he loves reading on it. In fact, he has probably read more books on the Kobo in the past couple of months than he has read over the last few years. It's just easier for him to read on an ereader and the on board dictionary really helps.

    Perhaps the libraries could try a book scavenger hunt type reading game. We do this on Goodreads/SOS group -http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/33903-sos-serious-overload-of-series - even a Book Bingo game can get people reading. The key is to make it fun.

    Also, as parents, we need to turn off the electronic devices for a few hours a day. If kids aren't plugged in to the electronic games, maybe they might play outside or read?

    1. Yeah, that's my point exactly! If it's fun than the kids will not only be engaged, but they'll want to continue reading! They wouldn't just be like "this sucks!" and stop. But knowing you have a test and knowing that the most boring book in the world is sitting in front of you is not going to make kids WANT to read, it makes them HATE to read.

  5. This is one of the things I feel most passionately about. I loved reading as a child, and really believe we need to instil a love of reading in children from an early age. Not only does it help them with spelling and grammar, it also helps across other subjects, increases vocabulary, and increases their ability to dream and their imaginations.

    I used to take part in summer reading challenges at my local library, which were really fun, and I noticed my local library is taking part in a nationwide one this year. I hope that will increase children's involvement in reading, since it's amusing and exposes them to books that are age appropriate, and so will make them more likely to read.

    I could go on for ages, but I don't want to bore you!


  6. Great post :)
    I think people are just too lazy nowadays. It's far more easier to watch tv or use computer instead of reading.

    I remember when I was little and it was so fun to go to library and pick up books to read. Also then there were no computers and tv was pretty limited to me. I also remember my parents reading to me when I was very little. I mean they honestly must have read millions of books to me and every day! They also encouraged me to read myself when I learned to read!

    I think parents should encourage children to read books and that starts when they're little. When kids grow up with books they're much likely to continue reading because they have learned to enjoy it!

  7. Great post Jenn! And how horrible to make really young children read boring books like that. Reading should be fun. I am glad there is no such thing here in Holland, as obligated reading for the summer.
    I loved reading ever since I learned how, and went to the library almost daily. (Now I just buy all my own books). But I did dislike the "literature" I had to read for school, as I was supposed to detect what the author was meaning with the story. Ehh what? I just read a story about a man who ...

    1. My name is Lili and I did this week's post (:

      And yes, I agree it's horrible.

  8. It is a shame. I remember reading with my son some of his books. Frankly they were just DULL. I have tried my best to get him into reading. The only books he touches are the Diary of a Wimpy kid books (hilarious things that they are). When I was a kid we didn't go to the library but I LOVED reading, and always read tons over the summer.

  9. This is so sad to read. I was always a huge reader but rarely of NF. I much prefer something with an exciting plot!

  10. I definitely think they should focus more about reading being fun at a young age. Or at least vary it up. For every nonfiction book they read their next book is any book of choice (as long as it is at their reading level or above). My younger brother hates school reading.

    I actually volunteered at an elementary school last year and reading was a hit or miss with the kids but they could choose their own books. Summer reading list had that mix of fiction/non which helps. The thing they lack on is challenging the kids. I saw 3-5 graders checking out basic picture books and struggling with them. Just sad...

    What I saw a lot of was lack of parental involvement. Not reading with your child. Not making it engaging, etc. My current neighbor has 2 young kids but refuses to take them to the library. We have a great, fun summer reading program but she keeps saying its too far and doesn't have the time (please note the library is 3 miles away). I even offered to take the kids with me if she just takes them once so they can get their library card. Nope.... I see this all the time. Parents so wrapped up in their life they lack in aiding their children.

    Also, do the kids see others reading? I have two younger brothers and when you tell them to read, do homework, etc they don't want to. However if I sit down with them and pull out my own book to read, they quickly follow. Why? Because I once heard a girl arguing with her dad saying "Why should I read? Do you? I have never seen you read." Ouch! If a child sees the adults enjoy it and having fun, they are more likely to follow suit.

    Overall, schools need to give creative space for finding books each child individually likes and parents and other role models need to get more actively involved.

  11. Great post! This post was really thought-provoking and true. I'm in High School right now and it pains me how it seems that no one, but me actually reads the assigned books. Everyone is always reading the Sparknotes because they think reading is uncool and that it sucks. My school has given people the impression that reading is boring because they make us read such tedious, uncompelling lit. I can totally, and sadly relate to this post!!
    -Scott Reads It

  12. I've noticed the same sort of trend, except among the children I babysit. My younger brother and I had to practically be dragged out of books in the summer. I often tried to skip swim practice or art camp to finish up a book. Now that I've become the neighborhood babysitter, its become a challenge to drag kids away from their iPads and iPods. And very few of them ever use them to read.

    Our local library system has a summer reading program, of which I was an avid user, to encourage kids to read. If you read X amount of hours, you get a prize. There were 3-4 levels, and the final prize was the best of all: a free book. I tried to get the various families I babysit for to sign up, and the closest I got to a yes was one girl who told me "I'll do it next year."

    This kind of thing is really upsetting, especially because reading is just such an important thing to me. Hopefully, something like Harry Potter can come along and inspire the younger children to read once more!

    Moni can be found at Cloud9Shelf.