Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The three Rs, Reading wRiting and Reality TV!

There are a wealth of new hobbies in the contemporary age, and indeed many more than in the "olden days". I grew up as a 90s kid both reading every night before bed as well as gaming all weekend with my younger brother on our chunky Compaq Windows 95 (and fighting each other for the controls!) It’s debatable whether increased fascination with computer games are a direct result of the decline in enthusiasm for a book.

Undoubtedly there are numerous new things for children to do with their spare time, including the latest video consoles and the explosion of internet social media. Children are likely to do what their friends are into, due to the desire to fit in at school. If books were made “cool”, so to speak then kids would read more widely for pleasure. It is true to say that when a book comes out that becomes a “cult”, such as Fifty shades, Twilight and Harry Potter, then children will flock to read it, as it gains media attention and is the talk of the playground.

There have been reports of kids picking up a Harry Potter book who had never read a full book in their life, but what would make them go that extra effort is the fact that it’s the “done” thing. From this we can learn what encourages a child to read. A little inspiration, a social following and an interesting storyline can be enough to spark an interest.

Yes, overall I do think that the majority of children are reading less for pleasure. There are so many distractions in the modern world and the fact is that computer games along with declining attention spans along with the internet increase the demand for quick pleasure fixes which a book does not provide as easily as a computer game.

It is so easy to watch the film of a book without even having read the book in order to get a quick and accessible idea of what the storyline might be. Children have picked up on this and are not putting the time in to read books once the film has come out.

A book requires effort and motivation on the part of kids that cannot read as well, and problems such as dyslexia can make this learning to read process even more arduous. Incentives should be provided by parents and a passion for reading inspired by parents. If your mom and dad spend more time in front of the telly than with a good book, chances are you will be the same. It is about getting the balance right and reminding a child that reading is fun. Still, parents who put value on their child’s education surely see the benefits of reading widely as well as having a healthy balance of games, TV and outdoor play.

Having overseen the kids reading scheme in the children’s library last summer I know that there are still those bookworm children like I was who devour a book a day for pleasure. We cannot discount the fact that there is so much to be gained from books and some kids and parents know this. I am not by any means suggesting that all children are reading less but I think as a general statement it is true simply by the fact of new distractions and new ways to spend time.

I know that there are parents who put in the effort to educate their children about reading and actively encourage picking up a book on a daily basis, but sadly children may neglect their reading in future years in favour of more technical hobbies. Is this a problem? Yes and no. Children are becoming more and more technologically literate than adults, showing great adaptation to the modern world of technology. It’s an essential to be technologically aware. Growing up around computers opens a world of possibility but reading should not be completely neglected in favour of computers, as a basic grasp of language is a pre requisite for any job.

What can we do for kids who prefer the computer? Encourage reading articles online, signing up to an online magazine, playing literacy games on educational websites. There are ways to make the learning to read process fun and parents simply need to get inventive about it!
Children are reading less for pleasure but it is not all down to computer games. The increase in time spent on the internet over the past decade or so is having an impact on our youth. Children want to play interactive games online, they want to have a Facebook page, they want to watch videos on Youtube. All of this time previously could have been spent on more conventional hobbies such as reading.

The rise of problems such as ADHD could be contributing to this lack of effort spent on reading. The truth is a child will not get as much enjoyment from a book if they have not fully mastered reading. Are children reading less for pleasure because they have not spent enough time learning the basics? Who is to blame for a lack of time spent with a good book? A combination of the modern world and not enough time and effort spent on getting children to read. A trip to the library weekly is a good way to start and opens a whole world of possibility and imagination!

(Won current issue essay of the week over on Ciao!)

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