When Hank was a boy, he read voraciously, gobbling up Alex Rider, Harry Potter and other books like peanuts at a ballgame.
Then we got him an iPhone and his appetite for books dried up seemingly overnight. I asked him about this change and he said, “I hate to read. Books are boring.”
A similar change occurred with Gabe. When the iPhone—and iPad and gaming systems—entered the picture, his youthful interest in books evaporated.
I know from talking with other parents that our experience is hardly unusual. Boys and girls read fewer books once they fall prey to the siren song of phones and social media. But the prognosis for the written word is hardly dim. In many ways it’s very bright.
Despite what he said, Hank continues to read now that he’s turned twenty and in college. He just does it on his phone or laptop, scanning his social sites and clicking on articles that speak to his interests in music and making beats. This is true with Gabe and other teens as well. They also continue to read, though they may (reasonably) loathe the boring textbooks that are stuffed down their throats in school.
Gabe read The Great Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn in his high school lit class this year, real books by real writers. It stirred up a new interest in him in writing and reading. Clearly, that’s where writers need to step in. We need to produce compelling, entertaining stories that draw young people back to books.
Speaking personally, this is one of the reasons I wrote Grace Brothers Mysteries: Searching for Sweetness, a middle grade/young adult novel about two teenage brothers who solve the baffling disappearance of a teen girl kidnapped by a gang. The first in a series, the story is heavy on action, adventure, mystery—red meat for boys.
Since our sons were very young, my wife Jennifer has sought to introduce them to good cooking, good food, a variety of good tastes. Her thinking is that if you instill in children a taste for good food when they are young, when they are older they will shy away from junk food and eat healthier and more nutritious food, which often tastes better anyway.
This holds true for books and reading, too. Introduce your children to books at a young age. Read aloud to them constantly. Encourage them to read silently when they are able. Give books for birthdays and at Christmas.Turn off the electronics. Set aside nightly quiet time for reading. These are a few of the ways that you can encourage a lifelong love for reading and books in your children.