The Troubling Stats About Kids And Reading
Frank Bruni at The New York Times wrote an outstanding op-ed last week about kids who read—and why our society needs them.
He quotes a recent report by Common Sense Media showing some sad trends:
It showed that 30 years ago, only 8% of 13-year-olds and 9% of 17-year-olds said that they “hardly ever” or never read for pleasure. Today, 22% of 13-year-olds and 27% of 17-year-olds say that. Fewer than 20% of 17-year-olds now read for pleasure “almost every day.” Back in 1984, 31% did. What a marked and depressing change.
That sucks. That really sucks.
Reading is literally like oxygen to your brain. No it isn’t—literally, at least—just making sure you’re paying attention after last week’s grammar post.
Reading is figuratively like oxygen to your brain. The benefits are numerous. Some examples from Bruni’s op-ed:
Several studies have suggested that people who read fiction, reveling in its analysis of character and motivation, are more adept at reading people, too: at sizing up the social whirl around them. They’re more empathetic. God knows we need that.
Late last year, neuroscientists at Emory University reported enhanced neural activity in people who’d been given a regular course of daily reading, which seemed to jog the brain: to raise its game, if you will.
I’ve also talked about how reading fiction can boost your creativity. But back to the intelligence factor.
Daniel Willingham, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, framed [reading] as a potentially crucial corrective to the rapid metabolism and sensory overload of digital technology. He told me that it can demonstrate to kids that there’s payoff in “doing something taxing, in delayed gratification.”
Before talking with him, I arranged a conference call with David Levithanand Amanda Maciel. Both have written fiction in the young adult genre, whose current robustness is cause to rejoice, and they rightly noted that the intensity of the connection that a person feels to a favorite novel, with which he or she spends eight or 10 or 20 hours, is unlike any response to a movie.
That observation brought to mind a moment in The Fault in Our Stars when one of the protagonists says that sometimes, “You read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
All of this seems like common sense to me.
Of course we’re going to be smarter when we exercise our brain by reading. Of course our brain is “doing more” when we’re reading The Fault in Our Stars instead of watching a Duck Dynasty marathon.
I want to make sure my boys are readers, that they don’t fall into that 22% of kids who “hardly ever” read for pleasure.
I’m about to start reading Narnia to my 3-year-old, and I can’t wait to see what he thinks as his imagination runs wild. All it takes is a little effort from parents to make sure our kids give a crap about reading. Teachers can only do so much.
What do you make of Bruni’s article?