Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Decline of Reading

I've been thinking about reading a lot lately. I've been reading about reading, which is a little weird. I am trying very hard to raise my daughters to be readers, but this is an increasing difficulty in our society.

When I was in college, I was never without a book. In between classes, while eating, while waiting for something interesting to happen, I was reading. My grades even suffered for all of my reading; I sometimes missed classes because I couldn't see sitting in a lecture hall when something exciting was going to happen in a book I was reading.

Now I teach college. I see students every day spending down time between classes or at the food court, and none of them--on average zero a day--are reading books. Instead, they're texting, playing "Angry Birds" on their iPhones, checking Facebook on their laptops, or doing god knows what else with every manner small handheld devices.

Texting is fun. I love my wife's iPod Touch. Hell, I even ordered a Kindle. Nothing will every replace reading for me. How can I reasonably accept that my daughters will be the same way?

Wait a minute! Why should I want them to be the same way? Because reading increases your vocabulary, IQ, knowledge base, and experience. People who are readers score higher on every test in ever subject opposed to people who are not readers.

Okay, so how can I hope my daughters will be reading books instead of otherwise wasting time in their lives?

Well, it starts with reading to them. If you read to your children for 20 minutes a day (or even to yourself for that long) that's 104 hours a year, or about 3,000 written pages (according to Jim Trelease in his book The Read-Aloud Handbook).

Also, model reading for your children. Show them that you want to read instead of watch TV or surf the web. Let them see you reading silently to yourself every day. Every day.

At least, I'm hoping all of this is true. For many of us--we who are readers--these are natural acts that you and your family enjoy. For others, it can be learned and a whole new world will open up to you.

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