Thursday, June 19, 2008

Feature: Mitigating the Reading Crisis One Book at a Time

Mitigating the Reading Crisis One Book at a Time
By Mahak Jain
Marketing Assistant

Much anxiety and biting of nails accompanied the news of a “reading crisis,” an industry illness as chronic as the cold. But librarians were not surprised by the the "Reading at Risk" report, which is available on the National Endowment for Arts's (NEA) web-site: "'It's something that librarians have known for decades,' said Ginger Bush, the director of patron services at the Minneapolis Public Library."

The report noted that a sharper rate of decline in reading occurred among individuals between the ages of 18-24 - young adults and future parents whose example may discourage their children from reading. Scholastic's 2008 Kids and Family Reading Report has reconfirmed this worrisome conclusion. The Scholastic study notes that "pleasure reading in children begins to decline at age eight and continues to do so into the teen years."

Why don't children read more? Do they hate reading? Do they find it boring?

Surprisingly, one of the top reasons children didn't read was that they found it difficult to find books they enjoyed. Other reasons include "too much homework" and "I would rather do other things." The first two reasons indicate that reading itself is not the problem - but it's not surprising that kids would rather do other things if we don't encourage them to read books they enjoy. Most importantly, our media-saturated society has not discouraged kids to read as much as we thought, so we need to turn our attention to discover what they do like to read.

Karen Louise Boothe, a spokesperson for the Minneapolis Public Library, noted in the SLJ article that "the public needs to understand that the definition of literature has broadened beyond the standard classics to include other genres—even Japanese manga." Similarly, Claire Fripp, elementary and middle school English teacher and mother of three, recognizes that it is crucial that parents let their children choose the books they want to read:

Forget your own ideas about what constitutes a “classic” and let them choose their own books from the list, if one has been provided by a teacher. All the books on the list have some merit or they would not have made the list in the first place. If your child hasn't been given a summer reading list, create one by browsing online. Make sure your child has a say in a list you create together - the plain truth is that if your child doesn’t like the book they won’t read it—would you?
But parents need to be involved in the process even after a visit to the library or a bookstore:

Once the books are at home and you see that they are collecting dust, your best bet to a hassle free reading summer is to share the reading. Depending on age and ability parents can read the book to the child, alternate reading one page with each other, or listen to your child read aloud a few pages and you finish up the chapter. All ages love to have a story read to them—some just show their joy more readily than others.

Seem like a lot of work for you this summer? Studies show that children with parents who are actively involved in their schooling process do better at school. By showing your interest and taking the time to read with your child you are demonstrating that reading has value; that reading can be fun; that reading is something you also do—not just something you say your child has to do.

Claire's article offers more tips that parents (and teachers and librarians) can use, but most importantly, her suggestions indicate that we must not let reports of a "reading crisis" paralyze us, but teach us. Kids want to read. Kids like to read.

Claire concludes with an important reminder: "Above all show that you are enjoying the reading. You never know, you may discover some new authors that will give your “classics” a run for their money." Here at Lobster Press, we have always known that the first step to building a love for reading is a great book - so take a look at our suggestions for books that your kids and you are sure to enjoy.

1 comment:

Trevor Cairney said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog. Enjoyed this piece. Mind you, I don't think we have a reading 'crisis'. Best wishes, Trevor Cairney