Why We Need to Foster a Love for Reading

Foster Love for ReadingTechnology offers much for our students in the ways of preparing them for success in the 21st Century, but with the allure of smart phones and other electronic gadgets, many students are missing out on something tremendously important: A love for reading. According to Education News, San Francisco’s Common Sense Media reports that the number of children reading for pleasure has plummeted compared to 40 years ago.

In the Research Brief, Common Sense Media looked at a number of studies that tracked and surveyed 2- to 18-year-old students on their reading habits. The studies were conducted by groups like Scholastic and Northwestern University, to name a few, but all of the results point to disturbing trends—reading scores haven’t increased among teens, and kids spend little time reading for fun. According to findings, 33 percent of 13 year-olds and 45 percent of 17-year-olds report actually reading for fun only once or twice a year. When it comes to daily pleasure reading, 53 percent of 9-year-olds, 27 percent of 13-year-olds and 19 percent of 17-year-olds engage in this while 22 percent of 13-year-olds and 27 percent of 17-year-olds claim to “never” or “hardly ever” read. With only 35 percent of fourth graders scoring “proficient” in reading assessments and significant proficiency gaps occurring among Hispanic and black youth, these statistics are deeply troubling.

Students need to read to build important literacy skills that will help ensure their future success. They need to be provided with positive incentives to read, and assistance in finding books that will match their unique tastes and preferences. While it may be difficult to draw them from the allure of electronic devices, reading and technology can be paired together for a win-win situation. In their research, Common Sense Media looks at the promises of electronic reading, stating “[In] the past 10 to 15 years, there has been an evolution, and then a revolution, in electronic reading.” It began with books on the computer and electronic books for young children on devices like LeapPads and Tag systems. Now, there are continuously evolving versions of Kindles and Nooks, as well as reading apps for iPads, tablets and smartphones. Students have easy access to books and many eBooks are inexpensive or even free.

The future of electronic books looks promising. Common Sense Media looked at Scholastic’s 2013 survey of 6- to 17-year-old students regarding eBook usage. Almost half of the students surveyed have read an eBook, which has doubled since 2010, and 4 percent of children ages eight and up read eBooks every day. As schools gain better Internet connections and increase their technology inventories, more students will be reading digital textbooks in lieu of dusty, outdated tomes. Scholastic offers tips and resources on incorporating eBooks in the classroom for teachers who want to get started now or are already using eBooks. If students can spend an hour on Instagram, why not dedicate some of that time to reading classic novels online? Most of those are free.