Book shelves are being replaced with "entertainment centers," as if books alone aren't entertainment enough. I can't tell you how many homes I've walked into, and this is the case. The book shelves are lined with DVDs, video games, and other knick-knacks. Very few books.
I write books for teens and young adults. My children and their friends are approximately of this same age group, and I can count on one hand (with fingers left over) of the kids I know who love to read just for the heck of it. Most of the teens I know, including my own children, when I ask what the last book they've read was, give me a strange look. It's as if I'm asking them to tell me about the last time they've eaten 50 pounds of broccoli.
"It's summer," they say OR "You want me to read a book? Why? Am I being punished?"
My middle child, age 14, spends a GREAT deal of time with his friends at the local library. It sounds impressive, until I mention that they're not there for the books. They use the computers to play Minecraft online together. I can't tell you the last time he's used his library card to check out an actual book.
I'm being honest and truthful, and I realize fingers may be pointed in my direction. "The love of reading begins at home." Of course it does! I don't dispute that one bit. My children grew up with bookshelves overstuffed with various books from Dr. Seuss to James Dashner. They chewed on them as babies as I read the sweet nursery rhymes over and over. They sat on my lap as toddlers as we read NO DAVID for the umpteenth time. I LOVE to read, and I definitely wanted to instill that love into my own children. I worked hard at, as I suspect many parents did.
It didn't work.
My children bought books at school book fairs. My children all had library cards by the time they were five, and we checked out books often. My children watched me reading, and saw my own bookshelves filled with the books I loved and adored.
Still, my children could care less about books.
To be fair, two of my three children have learning disabilities, and so fighting dyslexia and short attention spans makes reading difficult. But there are many children I know, who do NOT suffer from any learning disability, who simply would rather stare at a blank wall than crack open a book.
I asked my 12 year old daughter and her friend why they don't like reading books? Basically, they said that reading is boring. My daughter said, "If a book isn't super interesting in the very beginning, then it's easy for me to set it down and never pick it up again." Her friend didn't have a specific answer as to why she didn't like reading for pleasure, but simply stated that she's rather do something else.
A roundup of studies, put together by the nonprofit Common Sense Media, shows a clear decline over time. Nearly half of 17-year-olds say they read for pleasure no more than one or two times a year — if that. (NPR, May 2014). The 12 year old mentioned above are already heading in that direction.
One thing that is kind of scary, for me, is that we live in a time in which there are more digital devices to read on than ever before--Kindle, Computer, Tablets, iPods, eReaders--but fewer and fewer kids are using these devices to actually read. Social media sites and online games are the big attraction and it's becoming harder and harder for books to compete against flashing pieces of candy and birds begging to be sling-shot across the screen.
Take a look at this picture below (taken from an article written by Jane Friedman) . It's quite telling:
How do we change this? Can it EVEN be reversed?
I honestly don't have the answers, and believe me, I REALLY wish I did. I just know something needs to be changed or we will end up with a generation of people glued to their phones and iPODS, who believe in instant and immediate rewards that only clicking from one hyperlink to another can provide.
How do we encourage the love of reading? How do YOU encourage the love of reading?
***If you're a teen or young adult, and you LOVE to read, please, PLEASE, take a moment and leave a comment below. All you have to say is I <3 books, and my heart will be filled with so much happieness than you can possibly know***