Is it the end of books and reading as we know it?
You might have seen a recent YouTube video showing an adorable 1-year-old expertly swiping the touch screen of an iPad and then turning her attention to a magazine. Each time the tech-savvy tot tried to make the magazine “work” and respond to her finger strokes, she was met with stubborn resistance from the glossy pages. Some parents were charmed, but others felt alarmed. Could this mean the end of books and reading as we know it?
The answer is no. Myung Lee, the Executive Director of Jumpstart in New York City, points out that banning portable devices such as Kindles, Nooks, and iPads is not the answer. “Reading is reading is reading,” says Lee, who is confident that “the act of reading will survive with whatever technology is available at that time. The format doesn’t matter.”
“What’s important is that children get information from reading and fuel their imagination with words,” Lee explains. Growing up, she remembers that reading was strongly encouraged in her family. Her parents read, her sisters read, and she did, too. “Reading books allowed me to create my own image, to create my own world, and not just see it on a screen somewhere.”
There’s plenty that parents can do to encourage kids to read, no matter how busy and packed their schedules become with schoolwork, sports, extracurricular activities, and chatting with friends on social networking sites.
- Make your home an inviting place to read with comfortable chairs, seating, and lighting and plenty of books and reading material within reach.
- Expose your children to a variety of genres in both fiction and non-fiction.
- Take the kids to the library to get their own library cards and return often to let them pick out more books. Libraries also sponsor reading challenges, especially during the summer.
- Treat school breaks and vacations as “reading holidays,” and occasions to stock up on books and magazines.
- Parents also can set a good example for their children by being avid readers themselves. Reading won’t be such a hard sell if your kids see you reading throughout the course of the day.
And for kids who might feel more reluctant about reading, here are more fun ways to boost your child’s literacy skills:
Finding and following recipes in a cookbook, recipe box, or online and making lists of ingredients for the grocery store are all tasks that encourage kids to use their reading and writing skills.
Board games like Monopoly and Scrabble and trading card games like Yu-Gi-Oh all have rules—which require intermediate to advanced reading and comprehension skills. Online games also encourage kids to learn rules in order to earn points.
Whether your child is learning how to build a birdhouse, sewing a pair of mittens, or raising sea monkeys, chances are excellent that many of these hands-on activities involve reading manuals and following how-to instructions.
From scribbling down poems, stories, and plays to creating books, comic strips, and graphic novels, writing can be a great way to learn more about the power of words. Encourage your child to put their ideas down on paper (or via PowerPoint), and type up their stories to share. Then have fun reading these efforts out loud.
A message in a bottle, Post-It notes, homemade cards… these are just some of the ways parents and kids leave messages for each other and express sentiments from “Boo!” to “I love you!” And yes, e-mails count.
Unplug the TV
Sometimes the very best way to encourage reading is to turn off all the other diversions in the home, including computers, cell phones, Blackberrys, televisions, Wiis, and other electronic devices. The entire family can unplug for an hour, or even an entire day. Screen-Free Week challenges children, families, schools, and communities to turn off their televisions and other entertainment screens for seven days. These specially designated black-out times and dates are great ways to encourage the members of your family to reach for a book, play board games, or tell ghost stories.