Tuesday, 12 April 2011

I think I may be in some strife

today because of a letter I wrote to the state newspaper. It was printed this morning. I have already had an early morning jogger - who clearly knew me although I do not know him - tell me I am wrong. He must have been up very early to get to the letters pages before heading out for a run - or does he work for the paper? He might. Children, he told me, do not have time to read books - "except in school". Of course, I was saying that children should read more. Oddly, there are other people who have told me "children do not have time to read". I am naturally aware of the "after-school" phenomenon. This is the necessity of keeping your little darlings occupied every moment of the afternoon lest they "waste time" and the parents are not able to keep up with other parents. After all if little Billy is doing five after school activities then little Joe needs to be doing at least that many. Of course there is also "homework". There are things to be "researched" on the computer and the endless sheets of "activities" that must be completed. But, even with that, is there no time to read? Is it possible to cut down on television time or computer games time? What has happened to reading a chapter before you turn out the light? "We don't have time to go to the library" and "They don't seem to like reading much" are other excuses. Yes, people find excuses not to read. It is much easier to push a button on a remote control and then just sit there. It is for this reason I suspect my suggestion children should be encouraged to read, perhaps even required to read, by choosing their own books from extensive lists (in well stocked school and public libraries) will be criticised. How dare I suggest that reading is at least as important as football or tennis coaching? How dare I suggest that reading is at least as important as computer time or texting messages to a friend they saw half an hour ago? How dare I suggest that a trip to the library is as important as slouching down the street to check out the potential for graffiti? Obviously I am seriously in the wrong here - or is the attitude towards reading wrong?

11 comments:

Rachel Fenton said...

I would make a guess that many after school clubs are actually a form of child care for working parents. That aside, I don't think making children read is going to do anything but repel children from the idea that reading can be (and I think is) fun.

Children can and do read as part of their schooling. Are you suggesting that reading for pleasure should also be compulsory?


Ideally, yes, children should read more but then, ideally, parents should work less hours and a set period of creche/childcare should be free to all families etc etc..


Your heart, and brain, are in the right place but you're still trying to drag that horse to the water hole.


Ultimately, kids who want to read, will/do/ those who don't/won't, regardless. Viz, you can't educate bacon.

Anonymous said...

Rachel is right - after school care is child care for working parents but the other activities are often so that parents can boast about what their kids are doing/how smart they are etc.
If reading for pleasure was compulsory I doubt it would be enjoyed as much. I do not think that was your point though was it?
I agree that kids do not get enough time or opportunity to read. There are too many other activities that get in the way because our affluent society allows it. By the time they have done all that reading has to be squeezed in on the end. There really did use to be more time to read. Ros

Sheep Rustler said...

Avid readers will read anyway. I think it is wrong of parents to pile too many activities on their children - in many cases it is because the parents feel their children 'should' have all these accomplishments. I don't know how to encourage reluctant readers though, without making reading for pleasure an actual part of a routine or curriculum, and then it could easily turn into just another task. Unfortunately parents who are not readers themselves will not prioritise it. To those that are, you are preaching to the converted.

widdershins said...

I read an article a few years ago where the author lamented that 'kids nowadays' weren't reading like they did way back when. The rebuttal was made that it's the same types of kids are reading now that were reading then, the kids who want to read, that find their way to reading, in spite of or encouraged by, parents ... so I have to agree with Sheep Rustler.

I have a teenage granddaughter who just turned 17 ... 17! sheesh, how did she do that? While I turned away for a moment?...

... anyway, she's as wired in to the internet and social media as any completely self-absorbed teenager is, but she and her coterie of friends also read avidly, for pleasure.

Maybe we oldies with paper books need to simply act as Aunty Mames' and have a few open windows for the curious to peer through.

jeanfromcornwall said...

In the bookshop, we used to know which Dickens novel had been selected for the GCSE course - we would get "posh" mums in asking for it on tape - unabridged of course. Heaven forfend their little stars should have to actually read it! Considering how much longer it takes to read something aloud than simply read it, that defied logic. Unless of course all these future high-flyers were the ones I would define as having learned to read rather than being readers.

My husband and I always read at the table, and the children were allowed to as well as soon as they could find space for the book and could reasonably guarantee not to get gravy on the library books. That explains us as a family.

Judy Astley said...

Thing is with reading for pleasure is it's essentially a habit. Small children who are regularly read a bedtime story are surely likely to think of books as something comforting and delightful and when they can read for themselves should be encouraged to have wind-down reading time before sleeping. Of course to get to this point, you need parents who will first give them the reading time - and the books. I hope you in Australia aren't in the same danger of losing your libraries as we are over here in the UK.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

If parents are avid readers, odds are their kids will be. If they aren't, only the lucky few will try - and get hooked.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that parents all too often do not read to their children at night or take an interest in what they are reading. It is the "time poor" thing that occurs when both parents work. I can see it in my own kids and their kids and it is not a good thing. The kids have a lot more material possessions but I think they could do with more parent time. Bob C-S

Donna Hosie said...

I don't think making children read is going to do anything but repel children from the idea that reading can be (and I think is) fun.

Rachel is absolutely right. Children should not be forced to read. I was at school and I detested English classes, although when left to my own devices I was actually pretty good.

catdownunder said...

I was not suggesting should be made to read - what I was suggesting that they should be given more opportunities to read. I think there is a difference - hope so anyway.

Neil said...

My reading of your post seems to suggest children should be given more encouragement to pick up a book - ot forced to do so.

I completely agree, but I am also aware there are people who find reading as tedious as I find football.

It would be wonderful to foster a love of reading in all our children, but many will never take pleasure from something they find difficult.

Here in the UK one of our best selling newspapers has a reading age of seven. I think this gives you a clue to the quality/ability of the bulk of readers in this country...