In the bookshop yesterday afternoon I heard one of those conversations between a bookseller and a customer which must make a bookseller, all writers and publishers want to weep.
"I want a book book for my nephew for his birthday."
"Oh, how old is he?"
"II don't know how old he is but I think he's about six."
"And he likes reading?"
"No he doesn't like to read much but his mother said to get him a book but nothing rude or funny...it has to be something he can learn something from."
Oh right. Perhaps that is one reason why the child "doesn't like to read much".
I have noticed, and so has the bookshop staff, an increasing tendency for some ambitious parents to "encourage" their children to read only non-fiction. The library staff I have spoken to have also noticed this. There seems to be an attitude which says, "Don't waste your time reading fiction. If you want to read then read to learn something."
It is not quite, "Why are you wasting time reading a book when you could be doing something?" but it is not much better than that.
If you want to read non-fiction - and most children do at least some of the time - then that is fine. If you have to read it and are discouraged from reading anything else then you may soon get the message that reading is "work" and not for pleasure. Reading will be seen as something you "must" do rather than also choose to do.
Children get little enough time for reading as it is - apart from what they read on the screen of their computer, i-pad, e-reader, phone and other such devices. That is often not seen as "reading" anyway.
The Whirlwind is given time to read at school. The boarders are all expected to have a fiction book and the very last part of the day is their "book before bedtime" reading. She reads at other times too but she tells me there are day girls even in her school who "do not read much" at home. They are too busy with extra-curricula activities.
I wondered how many out-of-school activities the young nephew is expected to participate in.
It seems one of the unintended consequences of the perceived need to supervise and occupy children at all times has been to reduce the amount of reading some of them do for pleasure. I might be wrong but observation really does suggest there is less time for reading, especially reading for pleasure - and some have lost sight of how much it is possible to learn from fiction.
The young man buying a book for his nephew went away with a politically correct book about the environment. It might get read but the bookseller and I both agreed that the "rude and funny" book about the body was a great deal more (harmless) fun.