Why don’t kids read books?

While skimming one of Publishers Weekly‘s online newsletters, I came across the following article from Forbes online:

Kids Don’t Read Books Because Parents Don’t Read Books.

Jordan Shapiro argues that technology isn’t the demon pulling kids away from reading that many think it is; rather, it’s adult attitudes toward reading, books in particular, that contribute to the decline in kids’  reading for pleasure. He cites some very interesting statistics to prove his point. I have to agree with him, but not just because of his stats. I see it every day I’m in the library. I see it amongst my friends’ children and those of my relatives.

If the parent reads, the kid reads. Especially books. You can’t tell a kid that reading is important and expect them to read XX number of minutes per day, when you spend your free time playing games on your iPhone or watching TV.

Children do what you do. (This dooms me to having a child obsessed with shoes and who likely will have a mouth like a trucker, but darn it, she reads everything she gets her hands on.)  You want your kid to be a reader? Don’t just take them to the library – check out books yourself. Make sure your child sees you reading – especially books and magazines and newspapers, whether you do so on a Kindle or an iPad or the print copy itself.  And while you’re at it, read one of their favorites now and then. Children love to discuss what they read, just as adults do.

Shapiro says something else that really resonates for me. “We value literacy, cheering on small kids to learn to read as quickly as possible. But when these kids become adolescents they attempt to directly emulate their adult role models. If adults don’t read books then trying to act like an adult means not reading books.” 

Let’s set a good example. Being an adult means reading. Not just skimming the news online or picking up People at the doctor’s office. Reading. Books of all sorts and genres. Magazines and newspapers. Even blogs!



5 thoughts on “Why don’t kids read books?

  1. Leslie, as we know, this is a big subject with writers and certainly teachers. After having read the Forbes article, I have to say I agree—to a degree.

    I think there are several variables that contribute to whether a child will or won’t read books. I happen to feel (strongly) that electronic-based gaming,TV, movies and communication through technology is a very big factor. Parental influence CAN help combat it though. It could be made less of a factor if reading longer fiction was more strongly encouraged (or insisted upon) by parents, but if the parent doesn’t set the example, they have no backing as to why they encourage or insist on it.

    Unless a kid naturally prefers “quiet” activities, they’re not going to be drawn to it on their own, especially in the modern, technology-filled world we live in which supplies entertainment and escapism in very luring, more passive ways. Reading requires time and mental activity. Just like anything else with kids being individuals—some will be naturally drawn to quiet, mentally stimulating activities while others want “loud,” more physically active/mentally passive activities. For the ones who aren’t naturally drawn to “quiet,” there are lots of wonderful suggestions out there on how to encourage it, parental influence as readers themselves being a big, key factor.

    Another great post, Leslie 🙂

    1. Thanks, Donna! Yes, there are several factors playing into why children don’t read more. But I agree with him that lack of parental example is a BIG factor. Kids are very much “do as I do” kind of folks where parents often rely on “do as I say.”

      1. Leslie, you know what crossed my mind AFTER I wrote the post (some subjects stick with me and I keep thinking about them afterwards) is that if the parents aren’t setting the example in the first place, I highly doubt they’re encouraging the kids anyway : / The stats are probably worsening because parents themselves don’t have the habit or don’t put importance on it. If adults don’t want to develop the habit, they won’t care if their kids do.

      2. Quite likely some of the time. But just as we eat sweets for a pick-me-up instead of baby carrots, or sleep a little later instead of getting up to exercise, so many parents encourage reading. They believe in it, but they choose something else for their leisure more often (or nearly always), not realizing their actions mean more than all their words.


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