Raising Readers in a Digital Age

Is it the end of books and reading as we know it?

How to encourage kids to readYou 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.

  1. Make your home an inviting place to read with comfortable chairs, seating, and lighting and plenty of books and reading material within reach.
  2. Expose your children to a variety of genres in both fiction and non-fiction.
  3. 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.
  4. Treat school breaks and vacations as “reading holidays,” and occasions to stock up on books and magazines.
  5. 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:

Cooking

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.

Games

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.

Hobbies

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.

Write On!

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.

Passing Notes

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.

About The Author

Suelain Moy
Suelain Moy has devoted many consonants and vowels to the study of babies, toddlers, pregnant mamas, teenagers, celebrities, and other wild things. A published author and writer, she has contributed articles and reviews to many national magazines and parenting web sites, including Parenting, Entertainment Weekly, Good Housekeeping, American Baby, Parents.com, Kaboose.com, and BabyZone.com. She is the author of Names to Grow On: Choosing A Name Your Baby Will Love. When she is not writing, she can be found directing lost tourists wandering the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

8 Responses to Raising Readers in a Digital Age

  1. UES Mom says:

    Great suggestions by Ms. Moy for encouraging reading in today’s world. Well written article.

  2. VF says:

    Comic strips are a fabulous way to learn to read in a foreign language too! And recipes are wonderful incentive … especially when the end result is scrumptious! I also think reading aloud to your kids not only encourages them to read on their own… or out loud to their stuffed animals! It also makes for wonderful cozy evenings….

  3. Bri says:

    I think the author’s acknowledging that the digital age and reading don’t have to be in opposition is extremely important – especially in our digital age.

    An important point mentioned by the author, is that much maligned online games can encourage reading by enticing children to learn to read or improve reading skills to be able to advance to more sophisticated levels. In addition, at our house, we integrate technology and reading skills …. to get help with online games you need to identify letters or mommy and daddy won’t help, to access the online game you have to enter the password yourself, finding the letters on the keyboard yourself (and learn them and start to identify them).

    We also read to our son with old fashioned books and new fashioned kindle books on the I-Pad…. screens and the digital age can be integrated into the reading process.

  4. theodore1260 says:

    Great idea using cook books to get children to read. Brilliant!

  5. Sea Jay says:

    I don’t understand why certain people are so reluctant to embrace change. E readers and pads bring an entirely new dimension to reading. They are so versatile and they still offer the traditional “printed word.” Nice article supporting technology.

  6. KVM says:

    What a delighful article! This has given me ideas on home remedies in helping my entire family enjoy the 21st century. Excellent read Ms. Moy!

  7. ReadingMom says:

    What a thought-provoking article! I do not agree that “reading is reading is reading” — reading the rules of a game can teach your kid to read for content, but there is something about reading books, whether on paper or on a Kindle, that is different from reading rules or cookbooks.

  8. Natasha says:

    Great tips! and again, like others have commented, good to hear that the digital age and reading are not in opposition.