[Graphic is from The Atlantic. It shows that reading rates have doubled since 1949]
I’m one of those people who read incessantly as a teen. When I wasn’t sneaking cigarettes on the top of a double decker bus, stealing candy from the corner store, or dressing up in fishnets to go see Adam & the Ants at the Lyceum, I was reading.
When my kids were little, I read to them all the time (good parent? check). In the mornings at breakfast (I cook up a serious protein filled breakfast–good parent? check), I’m engrossed in the New York Times. On holiday, I’m invariably devouring five books. I have always made the kids take journals with them when we travel, and I’ve always made sure they wrote in them (good parent? you betcha).
And then it happened: Two of my kids stopped reading.
My oldest, now 18, stopped in about 5th grade. He has a bookshelf full of books that I’ve bought him in a desperate effort to entice him back to the written word. He’s not having any of it.
Now, I’ve always talked quite openly to the kids about sex, but that particular book doesn’t quite seem like appropriate reading material for a 16-year old. “Honey, do you know there’s sadomasochistic porn in that book?” I asked her, incredulous.
She looked at me, sleepy eyed and confused. Her face went bright red. “I don’t even know what that IS!” Apparently she bought it solely becuase it was #1 on the ebooks bestseller list. So she reads, though she did roll her eyes when I asked her not to read that one.
I was reading aloud at night to my youngest until just a few months ago. She is 13 1/2 years old. She kept asking me, so I kept doing it (good parent? check). I was psyched because at her age I was doing–well, let’s just say my mother was NOT reading to me at night anymore. HuffPo says up till 8th grade kids absorb way more when read to than when reading themselves.
Alas, my youngest hates reading on her own. She’ll only do it with a gun to her head. Research shows that the more TV kids watch before the age of eight, the fewer books they read after the age of eight. (Well, I’m royally screwed then.) So I get her National Geographic for Kids, let her read my People Magazine, goad her constantly. Bad parent? check.
Nothing makes me feel like a worse parent than the fact that I write books, adore books, breathe books, make my living from books… and yet two out of three of my kids don’t read them. Damn the Internet: it’s all your fault.
So, how do you get your teens to read?