Friday, August 20, 2010

A Call for Young People to Read

There’s an article in the Huffington Post that’s convoluted, but worth reading. It’s called Reading With or Without Depression by Robert David Jaffee.

The article starts with a story of a young boy with behavioral problems who couldn’t read. One teacher introduced him to Mother Goose and the illustrations and poems caught him and he began to read.

The author tells his own story of not liking to read. He says his struggles came from depression. He now judges his mental health by how well he reads.
As a species, we have been speaking for at least 50,000 years, but we have been reading for only about 5,000, so speech comes much more naturally to us than does reading, which is not as hard-wired into our brains. Studies by neuroscientists have revealed, however, that the more one reads the more neural activity goes on in one's posterior lobe.
Jaffee questions how the children of today will develop their reading skills when a Kaiser Family Foundation study showed that children and teens spend more than 7 ½ hours on electronic activity every day.
A recent study by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, found that when low-income children were provided with free books over the summer, their test scores went up. The study also revealed that children improved their reading comprehension even when they were reading books that would not be considered literary.
Both of my kids read a lot as kids and teens. They still read a lot. What about yours? Are they young? Grown? Do they read?


  1. My kids are 6 1/2 and 4 1/2 and till about a year back, they used to watch so much TV, I despaired of ever getting them to read. But books were always around, and they saw their mother reading every spare minute she could. And one day, almost miraculously, I found that they had started reading for pleasure.
    I have no idea how or why it happened, but it did.

  2. My oldest (16) is a sporadic reader. My boy (9) reads constantly, everything he can lay his hands on, from the news paper to encyclopedias. He's now re-reading the Harry Potter series. My youngest (4) is just beginning to read, but books have always been her favourite thing. She takes great pride in sounding out words.

    I've heard many times that the best way to encourage kids to read (other than reading to them) is to let them see you reading for pleasure. I thought that was really good advice.

  3. No kids, but I read all the time when I was young. Still do.

  4. My toddler is a book terrorist; he rips, bends, and chews books, and he has a particular interest in any book I happen to be trying to read at the time. Oh well... I'm sure he'll grow out of it and grow to love books gently.


  5. My daughters started reading very early-between 3-4yo and they still read. Each of their children read but became "really interested" at different ages. Oldest grandson didn't get interested until he had a child. Now he's a military history buff and reads anything and everything to his 2yo who listens to it all.

  6. My son is 23 and just graduated with a degree in English. He's always loved books!

  7. My middle-schooler will read anything he can get his hands on, literally. His younger brother took longer to catch the reading bug and still doesn't read as often or for as long. He does enjoy it, but he also has more energy to burn.

    I do restrict their screen time, and I think it makes a difference.

  8. Interesting hypotheses about the 50k years of speech vs 5k years of reading/writing. The question is how read/write is defined. My impression is that young people today read fewer books (on paper). But they spend a lot of time with written communication, reading on internet, with SMS on cell phone, and chatting on messenger. I guess this also contribute to reading/writing skills, but maybe not in the traditional way?

    Cold As Heaven

  9. Rayna, you set a good example for them.

    I agree Laurita. Let them see you reading. And make books available to them. And read to them when they're too young to read to themselves.

    Elle, clearly he loves books already.

    Mary, the story about your grandson really made me smile.

    A reader and a degree in English, that's my kinda guy, bermudaonion.

    Cold As Heaven, I don't know if texting would be considered reading. It's certainly changing the English language, though. And probably any language. (I just know English.)

  10. I grew up in a house full of books, and my kids grew up in a house full of even more books. My mother used to worry that I would not learn to read because my sister would constantly read to me. I cut my teeth on the funny pages and Babar.

    My wife and I are avid readers, read to our kids when they were little, and they have grown up to be avid readers too. Sometimes I think we are single-handedly responsible for keeping the publishing business afloat, and fear that someday our house may collapse under the weight of all the books. ;)

  11. I read to him as a babe in arms. When he was old enough to hold books I bought him lots of colorful, sturdy books. As a preschooler he loved *writing* stories and very inventive and usually with some creature. He has a great imagination.

    Our school system, at the time, was very pro reading. He was required to write daily in a journal from kindergarten through
    5th grade. Plus, they had books they were required to read. I thought that was such a great idea. It does help with their grades and how to express themselves. Jake's only complaint was many of the books they wanted him to read weren't interesting or they were too simple (he was reading on a 7th grade level in 4th grade).

    He still reads, granted not as much now as I'd like to see--the pull of electronic gizmos--but he finished 5 books in a series he likes this summer. So I'm happy.

    To me, there is no greater joy than escaping into a book. :-)

  12. Helen, I agree. SMS and messenger is changing the language alot, that's the same in my language. Kids get very good in written communication, using and modifying the language. But everyting they write is very oral, and far from the established writing standards

  13. Jon, my house isn't collapsing, yet, but my shelves are. My DH has got to add support to them before books begin to topple.

    I was amazed at the books my kids read either via school assignments or on their own as they grew up. I do believe that reading to them when they were young and providing books as they grew made a huge difference in their comprehension.

    Cold As Heaven, even I am beginning to text things like: ur instead of "your," and im instead of "I'm." What will our words look like in 50 or 100 years?

  14. My niece and nephew need books more than they need air. They're both incredibly smart, though one of them reads so much he never does his homework and gets really poor grades. If the subject interests him, though (e.g., English and art), then he's top in the class. *shrug*

    When I was a kid I loathed reading. Depending on the subject, even now I read so slowly that it can border on painful. Of course, that's normally non-fiction or fiction with a slow plot. I hope that my children will learn the love of reading as early as my niece and nephew and not struggle with it the way I did.

  15. Rosie, give them books for holidays and introduce them to fun reads that suit their personalities, I say. Even series that you may think are not "meaty" may catch their minds and imagination and they'll read.

  16. Languages are ever changing, have always done and will always do. We get new words for new gadgets and forget old words we don’t need anymore (like sailship terminology). Languages develop to become more effective. SMS and IM are good examples. But this is not new; the classic CUL8R was invented 100 years ago by morse telegraphers, long before the cell phones. The major concern is loss of variety (synonyms). The main task for professional writers, I think, is to contribute to the richness and keep it alive >:)

    (last comment from me today, Helen; don't want to be a spammer; I just happen to be interested in language development)

  17. This is what happens when kids do nothing buy text all day.

  18. very interesting post - Cold as Heaven's comments on language development also interesting!

    Think of Chaucer's poetry - reading The Canterbury Tales is like reading a foreign language, and yet it's English.

    I often wonder why we writers are even trying to get published when in two or three hundred years what we write may not even be understood in the English of the day.

    When I cringe at my nephew's smsenglish I console myself that, despite the evolutionary changes in language, the humanity behind Chaucer and Shakespeare is understandable in any lnaguage (think of Leonardo di Caprio and Claire Danes version of Romeo and Juliet)


  19. Thank goodness all of my kids and grand-kids are avid readers. They read a wide spectrum of books and we all love to talk about what we have been reading.

    I saw a news report the other day about dogs who are used to encourage kids to read. Didn't catch all the details, but apparently the dogs are trained to sit in a kid's lap and stay there while the kid reads out loud. According to the story, kid's reading improved significantly after a few months.

    I remember making my cats listen to me read when I was a kid. Or maybe I should say trying to make my cats listen....

  20. As a teacher I try really hard to get my students to love books. I try to read out loud a lot and choose books that have sequels or related books I can point to. I have hundreds and hundreds of books in the classroom so we can hopefully find that 'home run' book for each kid that will hook them into being readers for life.

  21. Cold As Heaven, come back as often as you want. You always have interesting things to say. I don't even know what CUL8R translates to.

    Do they still teach Chaucer, Judy? I remember it from college, but I'd be surprised to find they still teach it.

    Maryann, you sure the kitties didn't stick around just to get patted while you read?

    That sounds wonderful, Jemi. Which made me think of something. Avid readers are often looking for places to donate their books - libraries, GoodWill...would a school district want these books?

  22. I don't know HOW many stories I've heard from friends who were awkward kids and reading 'saved them'--gave an escape. I hadn't heard the brain stimulation part, but it doesn't surprise me that kids with a place to 'go' mentally and emotionally, have healing time... recovery time, from whatever hardships life is dishing.

    My daughter has always had to be pushed... she loves some books, but doesn't PICK reading. She is extremely social and her moods are dependent on her relationships. I wish it were otherwise--I tried.

    My SON is at a gap. He was a great reader and loved it in elementary. Middle school is a time kids really prefer friends and media. But I believe he will come back to it. I was a reluctant reader at that age and became voracious later. I try to nurture the reading, but they are old enough that they will need to decide.

  23. Hart, I think you're right. I also think it's not a bad idea to let them read whatever they want, within reason. You may think reading comic books is not good for them, but there are comics (or whatever they like) that aren't bad. They tell a story and usually good triumphs bad, etc. My son read a lot of japanese comic books, but he also read a lot of historical nonfiction and other books.

    Viva la reading!

    Glad you clarified, Cold. I was trying to sound it out: Culater (cul-eight-er) You can tell I started texting late in life.

  24. I worried when I realized how much time our daughter was spending on her new I-pod touch, until I realized that she's fiction, not the best, but reading nonetheless.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...