If we haven’t all said it, we’ve definitely thought it: Why do my kids HATE reading? Parents, teachers, and concerned citizens everywhere are looking at the generation rising and seeing a mass of people who can’t seem to be bothered to read anything. Not the news. Not a book. Not even the room they’re standing in because their eyes are glued to the screen sitting in their palm.
We think, “I loved reading as a kid! Did something change? Am I doing something wrong? Is something wrong with my kids?” Then, we panic. “How are they going to function as adults if they can’t tell the difference between ‘fake news’ and ‘actual news?’ What will they do if their GPS stops working and they can’t read a map? Dear Lord, is that really what they think those models look like in real life?”
The good news is, no, it’s not just your child/student who really really really doesn’t want to pick up a book. You know it’s not, because you’ve heard other parents and teaches agonizing over the same thing.
More good news? Your kids don’t actually hate reading. Not really, anyway. the hate what the think reading is: A boring, sit-still, and brain-draining requirement they have no say in. That last part is crucial. If I had to choose one theme out of everything I heard my high school students say last year, it’d be this: I have no choice.
As adults, we might hear this and think, “Are you kidding? You have more choices than literally anyone has ever had. You have access to tools that will make you successful, and you’re wasting your time on your cell phone.” Is this accurate? For a handful of kids, sure. But not all of them. The reality is that we have a generation of people who feel like they have no control.
Climate change? Sorry kids, we can talk about it a ton, but you’re pretty boxed in with that one. No college fund? Sorry, you need x, y, z for that scholarship, so you should figure something else out. Aw, you feel anxious? So does everyone else – you’ll be fine. Your parents are struggling? Welp, that’s your job to handle cuz’ you’re 18 and a grownup now.
Before you get too upset, I’m not saying you have to agree with any of those italic words, BUT if these are the messages students are absorbing as truth in 2019, are we really surprised that they want to use their free time to cozy up in their digital hideouts?
Before Snapchat stories, video games, and shared Netflix accounts, reading was an escape into a world that was new and exciting and uncomplicated. This is where we’re letting our kiddos down. When life gets busy, we talk about the stuff that has to get done. When that’s reading? It’s an assignment. A mandate.
What would happen if we made the conscious decision to talk about reading like it was something wonderful? Because it is! For little ones, what if we read our favorite story at bedtime (or circle time) and shared why it made us happy? For older kiddos, what if we started by listening, rather than listing all of the reasons they should be reading more?
Does your kiddo love to draw? Ask them why! If they’re drawing to express a feeling or to escape from stress, they’re sharing a story and they don’t even know it. Do they obsess over anime and manga? Guess what? They are reading the heck out of those subtitles. Ask them why they prefer those stories! Is it because of the heroism or the value of loyalty? Ask them why they are always running into that video game – what’s so appealing about that world?
Y’all. Whether they know it or not, your kids love stories, and they love storytelling. What if we made a point of telling our kids that every story matters? Even theirs.
If we are truly living in a time where kids feel like their voices don’t matter, what better way to help them than to show them the wealth of stories they have available to them. Bookstores. Libraries. Yes, even Instagram. All of them, hubs of stories ready for our kids to take them in.
So, let’s STEP UP!
Let’s put our money where our mouths are and TALK about what we love to read, write, and create. Let’s ask our kids what they think, and LISTEN to what they have to say.