Should We All Aim to Read More?

The number of children reading for fun is declining annually: are we at risk of losing something very important?

Over the past few weeks, I have volunteered at my local library encouraging young children to read books of their choice and to give thoughtful responses to what they felt about them. This experience has been enjoyable because it has taught me how important reading actually is in shaping a child’s emotional and intellectual development: I have seen so many of them find excitement in being asked their thoughts about a book, and smile whenever they work out their own emotions in relation to a character, joke or picture.

Thinking back to my own childhood, I realize how much of an impact reading had on me, one that I was not aware of at the time, but that I can now see evident in my day-to-day enjoyments. From Harry Potter to the Hunger Games, every book had an influence on my perception of the world, on my understanding of people and behaviour, and most vitally on my own imagination. Reading encouraged my imagination to develop in a way that now enables me to sit here and create blog content – and for that, I am grateful.

Its this reflection on my own reading experience that heightens my sadness when parents mention to me how relieved they are that their child is actually reading and not sat on an Ipad. They make it sound as though it’s a challenge to keep their child interested in books when there is flashing technology at their fingertips, a struggle that maybe a lot of modern day parents understand. Though I’m a millennial, the speed at which technology is developing means that there is quite a difference between childhood entertainment nowadays compared to my own 10 years ago. I had a Wii and Nintendo as a child, but books took up an equal amount of leisure time.

The point I am trying to raise here, is how significant of an issue is it that children are spending less time reading? Is this just something to accept as part of a developing society, or should there be a drive to encourage children to pick up a book instead of a phone? An American study in 2014 found that the number of children reporting that they read for fun has been declining by approximately 10% each year: in that year, the figure was at a lukewarm 51%. Is this alarming considering the benefits of reading?

The battle against technology is one that any person is likely doomed to lose: our world is now powered by devices, the internet, virtual communications… This is a powerful and positive tool in so many ways, but it shouldn’t mean that a vital part of learning is sacrificed to pave the way for further change. If we were to do so, I think our society would truly become more robotic. Books can contain in their pages a bigger picture of the world, one that is exciting and thrilling, than a digital game. Stories tell us just as much about the world as the internet. They can create communication in the same way social media can – thus, I believe it is important to champion their importance to the next generation.

Even amongst the young adult population should we aim to promote reading – though our lives are fast-paced nowadays, and many activities demand our time, what’s to say we can’t afford to dedicate 20 minutes a night to perusing a novel? Important to note is that reading is far less disruptive to our lives, and in this case to our sleeping pattern, than technology. We can relax, disconnect from the wider world when we need to, and enter one entirely of our fancy through a book.

Maybe I’m misinformed and children are reading more than popularly believed. And maybe all of us here have a novel sat on our bedside ready for consumption. But, even if this is the case, I hope that this post has prompted one of you to choose reading as a leisure activity, or to sit with your child and ask them about what they think on their latest book.

Thank you for reading,

Fran

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