« Creativity in the Classroom | Main | Biotech for High Schoolers »

Pleasure Reading: A Thing of the Past?

| 9 Comments

Written by Education Week's Katie Ash

Education Week reporter, and frequent contributor to this blog, Kathleen Kennedy Manzo has an interesting story this morning about today's students choosing to read less and less in their free time, according to a report released by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Endowment Chairman Dana Gioia attributes the lack of interest in reading in part to the growth and popularity of electronic media, but also to the inability of schools to foster a love of reading in their students, the article says. The decline has serious implications for students' reading proficiency and comprehension, and also has many civic, social, cultural, and economic consequences, concludes the report.

Personally, I have always loved to read. In college, I spent several hours every Saturday morning combing through thousands of titles at my local thrift store, carting home roughly thirty books each week for less than $4. Although my enthusiasm may be slightly excessive, the idea that fewer and fewer kids experience the joy of curling up with a good book or the satisfaction of finishing a long novel is, to me, very unsettling.

Do you think increasing pressure on reading scores has stifled students' interest in books? How can teachers and parents help kids find reading enjoyable? What do you think would motivate a student to choose a book over the latest video game or a flashy television show?

9 Comments

When I taught fourth grade reading, during the listening comprehension part I would read Oliver Twist. After finishing up the book, I would show the movie version to my students. After viewing the movie, we would compare and contrast. The students were amazed with the huge differences, pointing out missing characters in the movie, parts where the character thought out loud, etc. I did a followup with the book and movie of A Christmas Carol. These exercises proved to me that my students were listening to detail as I read the book to them. It gave me opportunity to show my students what they miss when they only see the movie and not read the book.

One reason kids do so little readig for pleasure is that there is little cultural validation for that sort of behavior. Students are praised for their involvement in sports and extracurricular social activities. When they do engage in informal sedentary activities, these are usually social in nature: gaming, tv, etc.

Reading is resolutely solitary and "bookworms" are often thought of as withdrawn, lazy, and psychologically suspect. Education is defined as a tool for success, not for enriching the mind. Many schools place no emphasis upon fiction (after elementary school), other than the occasional obligatory classic. To encourage young people to read for pleasure, we really need to rethink our own basic premises.

Long ago, I went to a school that factored quiet, pleasure-reading sessions right into the curricular day from grades 1-8. We all just read quietly for two class periods a week, wrote short book reports, and kept lists of what we read that were collected and shared in the school library. In high school, imaginative reading was given the same primacy as our other subjects, though it was, by now, approached more formally. All my classmates, and I am in touch with most of them, became avid life-long readers and strong writers as well. We were also guided in our own creative writing.

Structuring pleasure reading into the center of a busy school day not only helps students, it sends a clear message about the importance of taking individual time for creative thinking and reflection.

I work for a company that develops e-learning solutions and we've found that one way to engage students more in reading is to meet them half way -- put reading content in a formate that excites them, such as multimedia programs. Using e-learing solutions does not take kids away from the computer, but it encourages them to use their "screen time" for reading rather than chatting in online communities or watching videos on uTube. In short, we meet students halfway and get them to read through the Web. If they like the material, they'll begin to understand it and maybe take some of it offline with books and novels.

I think there's another side to the issue of whether or not young people engage in voluntary reading, and it rests with their teachers. Many K-8 teachers are themselves infrequent voluntary readers. Since this is the case, it is more challenging for them to model the very behaviors they want their students to demonstrate. What can we do to help preservice and inservice elementary and middle-level teachers to be avid readers themselves? Or, to take the position of the devil's advocate, do they need to be enthusiastic, avid readers?

One reason kids do so little readig for pleasure is that there is little cultural validation for that sort of behavior.

I think that's part of it. Novels, certainly, are less culturally important than they used to be. When was the last time you heard a novel alluded to in "important" talk about "important" matters? Does one need to read to participate in what matters in this culture? Politicians who once would have used literary allusions to demonstrate they were not dunces now eschew such allusiveness to assure everyone they are not elitists. Was Alasdair MacIntyre correct in After Virtue when he said the new dark ages have already begun?

I've been thinking this year about the rather stunning literacy of the Puritans--not just their reading but the writing, the output of diaries and letters by ordinary Puritans--and their sense that reading a text that was culturally important to them--the Bible--was necessary to living their lives. There are no texts that are any longer viewed as necessary, and so it seems natural that reading itself comes to seem less necessary.

I also wonder about Eros. Does the spread of hook-up culture reduce a sense of yearning that once led more young people to the enchantments of literature?

I agree with those writers who mention the lack of positive reading examples in our culture. I co-teach a high school level Literacy class with another teacher where we have kids for two class periods a day, thus giving us a little more time. We make sure our students read for at least 30 minutes every day. They are given a wide choice of high interest novels and nonfiction to choose from (The Dangerous Book for Boys is a big hit). Some of the students with lower skills are listening along on tape. Since August, the difference we have seen in their attitude about reading has been astounding! These are kids who hate school, have ADD and learning disabilities, and never read anything. Some of them are actually getting their parents to buy them books which they bring to class. Back to setting the example: I have noticed that when I don't read with them, they get off task themselves--if it's not important for me to make reading time a priority, why should they?

I have always loved to read. In college, I spent several hours every Saturday morning combing through thousands of titles at my local thrift store, carting home roughly thirty books each week for less than $4. Although my enthusiasm may be slightly excessive, the idea that fewer and fewer kids experience the joy of curling up with a good book or the satisfaction of finishing a long novel is, to me, very unsettling.Article is very nice

It is distressing to see how many children are falling into this lifestyle of obsessive media and electronic entertainment. In the summer I run a science/technology day camp. During breaks from camp activities we love to take the kids outside to play games and enjoy the sunshine. In the past few years since I have been running this camp I have been shocked at how many kids complain about going outside, how they’d rather get on the computer or play their gameboys. I know that many of them head straight home and hope on the computer, grab the game controller or turn on the television. I remember the days of my childhood when I loved to be outdoors playing games with friends or reading a good book out in the grass. I do believe the obsession with electronics has led to a decline in a love of reading. As a first grade teacher I do everything I can to show my students what it means to be a reader and enjoy literature. I try to develop and instill a love of reading in each child that passes through my doorway. As a reader I demonstrate my love of books and stories and through my enthusiasm I hope to motivate them to become readers and enjoy books as much I as do.

The printed word is dying. That doesn't mean it's finished, or it has no purpose, it just means that visual media will rule the near future.

The most popular books now are graphic novels. Kids are entertained through televisiona and video games.

This phemenon can't be changed. What we can do is encourage our "writers" to create television, video games, and graphic novels that encourage our children to think and be creative. Easier said than done.

Comments are now closed for this post.

Advertisement

Recent Comments

  • Thomas: The printed word is dying. That doesn't mean it's finished, read more
  • Laura: It is distressing to see how many children are falling read more
  • Self Improvement Books: I have always loved to read. In college, I spent read more
  • Chris: I agree with those writers who mention the lack of read more
  • MLU: One reason kids do so little readig for pleasure is read more

Archives

Categories

Technorati

Technorati search

» Blogs that link here