If like me you’ve watched your children spend most of their holidays in front of an X-Box or glued to a play station and absolutely no time reading you will understand how frustrated I get when the youngest comes to me at the last hour and says he has a book review to hand in after the half-term break.
I am not alone when I share the frustration I have with my boys when they tell me they are bored, pick up a book and read I say, “Booooring” comes back the response.
The love of reading has to start at an early age often instilled by parents, if they see you enjoying a good read you hope that this rubs off onto your offspring.
Given the exposure children have to screens and their use in classrooms and for schoolwork does printed content still have a place in our digital future?
Imagine a world with no books, magazines, printed publications, catalogues and leaflets?
Print is all around us from advertising billboards in towns, bus shelters to newspapers and magazines you find at your doctor’s surgery.
Print is tangible, it evokes your senses, picking up a glossy, high quality magazine can appeal to our senses.
Publishers are able to incorporate different smells into the magazines we read making it more inviting to touch and smell.
I work in the print industry and I enjoy reading digital and print content, and, in spite of the misconception that digital has taken over print, nothing could be further from the truth.
Parents face the greatest challenge – to encourage the love of reading.
Whichever medium a child feels comfortable in is better than no reading, and, as long as they are reading something they are using their imaginations and developing the use of words.
The physical aspect of picking up a book and sitting down to read without any online distractions is far more beneficial than reading from a screen.
I attended a print seminar on the harmful long term effects of too much screen time on children.
Professor Susan Greenfield CBE presented a compelling case for the long term effects of screen time and the impact it is having on our lives.
In an article to the Telegraph in 2008 Professor Greenfield was one of the leading researchers on a project undertaken into research seeking to establish the effects of too much screen time.
The findings concluded that children who play video games have the same brain function as gamblers with side effects that include short attention span, anxiety, depression and boredom.
Children have become dependent on external stimuli with boredom setting in when they have to give up sitting in front of a screen.
Screens do the opposite they demote creativity are hugely distractive, often cause anxiety and reduce attention span.
The worrying aspect of her findings was the mindset of the future she pointed to a study where participants did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think, preferring mundane external activities than doing absolutely nothing.
The implication being that we are incapable of sitting still, resting in a contemplative reflective way. We are just “too busy” and we use the phone as a means to escape to check in on social media.
In a report by Deloitte 18- 24 year olds use their phones all the time while eating meals.
What is wrong in switching the damn thing off and staring into space or people watching?
The smartphone has become an integral part of our lives it is an extension of us, we are lost without it if it’s not in our hand or within easy reach of us.
Reading from a physical book is more restful enabling the person to think about what they are reading.
The greatest thing a human being can have is creativity and thought.
Print should be the first medium children come into contact with when they learn to read.
Good reading and writing skills coupled with common sense is essential.
Lily Cole, actress, model and ambassador for Project Literacy wants it to be on the humanitarian agenda unlike war, famine and poverty people won’t die because of being illiterate but being able to read and write equips people with the necessary skills to navigate the world in which they live, being able to read ingredients on an item of food to a road sign.
When people can read they are informed about the world around them, they can make choices.
The power of the printed word and the ability to understand what you are reading is a basic human right.
Comprehension and literacy are the cornerstone of understanding, from instructions on how to build a wardrobe to being able to understand what medication the Dr. has prescribed for you.
Reading demands that we are constantly learning even when we think we aren’t or can’t be bothered.
94% of the vietnamese population aged 15 or over are literate.
The OECD rated english teenagers aged 16-19 children the worst of the 23 developed nations in literacy and 22nd out of 23 in numeracy.
In Korea, teenagers have the highest levels of numeracy/literacy of all the OECD countries.
Japan, Finland and the Netherlands are all placed highly for 16-19 year olds with good literacy/numeracy skills.
Contrast that to english teenagers where 1 in 5 have a lower level of literacy and the same in numeracy with more than 25% lacking basic skills.
A survey undertaken by Two Sides, an independent not for profit organisation, in 2015 demonstrates that 88% of the respondents believe they understand and retain information when they read print on paper, the preference to read from paper rather than a screen was evident across all age groups.
- When given a choice, 81% indicated that they prefer to read print on paper.
- 81% indicated they are most relaxed when reading print on paper. Age group differences were minor with only 30% preferring to read from smartphones.
Encouraging children to read, to lose themselves in the story and the language can broaden their knowledge of words and spelling.
I have books lying around the home, bookshelves full of books, magazines, newspapers so there’s no excuse for my children not to read, but getting them to pick up a book is an entirely different matter.
With all these online distractions how do we get our kids to read?
- We can start by limiting screen time, if it is a school night and they have to use the PC for homework then that is the way it has to be but, if they ask to play on the playstation the answer is a simple No.
- Setting them a challenge to read two books in a month and the offer to take them out to their favourite eating place or cinema to see a film, this incentive has currently been offered to my thirteen year old, after I bought three books from Amazon (see the bottom of this post to see the books I bought)
This is not bribery it is about getting them into the habit of reading so it becomes something they miss when they don’t do it.
To my amazement last night he gave me a hug and kiss goodnight and said: “I’m going to bed to read”.
Not content with the spoken word I sneaked upstairs to check and there he was READING one of the books I had bought.
My youngest tends to spend time on the loo looking at his iPad so, I’ve taken it away and suggested that he reads a book instead, two things happened, he got out of the bathroom swiftly and strangely enough he now has more time to get things done.
Whatever it takes to get them to read.
- Reading in bed before the lights go out is a great way to relax and get the brain ready for sleep rather than looking at a screen. It is hard work but persist and the rewards will pay dividends because your child will get into the habit of wanting to read and going to bed earlier.
- Set them a challenge – get them to read all the books by Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, there is a box set available from Amazon just click the button on my website to order it.
- Ask your child what is the longest word they’ve discovered whilst reading and get them to find out what it means by using a real dictionary.
- Get your child to read to you, they don’t have to be young to practice their reading, my youngest loves to read to me, he lies next to me in bed and reads a chapter we get mother and son time and share a great story often trying to figure what is going to happen next.
- Photo copy extracts from books and encourage them to read it, if they enjoy it suggest you buy the book for them.
- Read to them, this is a new one for me, I haven’t read to my children since they were very young. I started reading the book I’m currently reading, a dry throat and half an hour later I had one son snuggled up on the bed next to me ready to go to sleep but wanting more.
- Let them read wherever their interest takes them they should be encouraged to venture from one type of book to another.
Finally, if you’ve tried everything else allow them screentime with Kindle and download books for them to read, yes, it is easier in some respects but at least THEY ARE READING a book and not glued to a screen.
My recommended books:-