Help Your Child Love Reading
The Facts in Black & White
One in four children think texting with friends counts as reading. This from the Kids & Family Reading Report published in 2010. If you haven’t just leapt from your seat to snatch the cell phone from your child’s hand, read on. It gets worse. 28% of kids ages 9-17 think that looking through postings or comments on social networking sites like Facebook counts as reading (Reading in a Digital Age).
Children who don’t read, or can’t read, or are even semi-illiterate, enter the adult world with distinct disadvantages. In their report, “To Read or Not to Read,” the National Endowment for the Arts reports that deficient readers will earn less money than their peers, have fewer opportunities for advancement, and are less likely to become active in civic and cultural life. They are more likely to wind up in prison one day, according to statistics released by the Washington Literacy Council and U.S. Department of Education. The ability to read can also affect the length of one’s life, as disadvantaged readers have a higher mortality rate (Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago).
Unfortunately, illiterate and reluctant readers are many in number. The Department of Justice reported in 1993 that 21 million Americans can’t read at all, 45 million are marginally illiterate and one-fifth of high school graduates can’t read their diplomas.
The Power of a Good Book and a Great Habit
The studies that demonstrate the profound impacts of literacy go on and on. The important thing to note is that readers read, and readers who read, read better the more they read. “Whether or not people read, and indeed how much and how often they read,” says Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, “affects their lives in crucial ways.”
The good news: nine out of ten children say that they are more likely to finish book they choose themselves, according to the report, Reading in the Digital Age.
Which leads us to one of the greatest inventions of all time: The Public Library. It doesn’t cost any money to own a library card. Children can read books for free. Most libraries also host reading programs, classes and literary events.
Putting down the video game and picking up a book might help advance your child’s GPA. In Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-olds, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that those students with higher grades (A’s and B’s) spent less time on video games and more time reading than those students with grades of C’s and D’s.
While digital media tools offer convenience, instant gratification, and world wide access, it cannot and must not be expected to replace good old-fashioned books – ink on paper, bound pages, all-yours, single-tasking, great-smelling, book books, and the deep, personal, incomparable experience that only print offers.
Says Gioia, of the National Endowment for the Arts, “… print culture affords irreplaceable forms of focused attention and contemplation that make complex communications and insights possible. To lose such intellectual capability – and the many sorts of human continuity it allows – would constitute a vast cultural impoverishment.”
Which is to say, in short, put a good book in the hands of your child/children – on a topic that they are interested in and that presents material at their reading level – and encourage them into the wonderful, beautiful world of reading, where only books can take them.
Resources for Parents
• The National Institutes of Health website offers advice, news, and other resources
• Find a Public Library in your area
• Reading at Risk, National Endowment for the Arts
• Reading in the Digital Age, Scholastic.com
• To Read or Not to Read, National Endowment for the Arts
• Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-olds, Kaiser Family Foundation
In Part 1 of the “New Roadmap for Smarter, Happier, Healthier Kids,” we discovered the truly damaging effects that television and video games can have on young minds. In Part 2 we learned about the healing power of the great outdoors. In Part 3 we offered 5 things to do to boost grades, confidence & well-being.
Stay tuned for Part 5 of “The New Roadmap for Smarter, Happier, Healthier Kids,” where we’ll help you nurture the artist that lives inside of every child.