I am a reluctant reader.
Big deal, right? In this day and age, isn’t everybody?
Well, it’s odd since I’m a former managing editor of a newspaper.
You know, that big thing with all the words.
I’ve also written three young adult books.
Yes, actual books.
Bear with me for a minute; I need to clarify this.
It’s not that I don’t read, it’s just that much of my workday can be spent reading and writing, so when I do carve out personal time (after feeding, bathing and cleaning up after three little girls) opening another book can seem like — well, work.
Having three children ages six and younger also means I read a lot of picture books. Some of them are wonderful, but it seems odd when someone asks, “read any good books lately?” And I answer, “Why, yes, we just finished ‘The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation!’”
I’m not sure that counts.
Since having kids, it can take weeks (or months) to finish something and I’m more likely to drop a book midway these days.
Not that I can uses kids as an excuse.
I’m certain I’ve been a reluctant reader my whole life, long before my career in journalism started or the kids arrived.
I would have rather spent two hours playing shinny on the outdoor hockey rinks with friends after school than shutting myself away with a book.
Heck, I remember running the bases alone after school if nobody else was around.
I needed to keep moving (although I also admit to watching too much TV).
I’m sure there are many of you who can relate. Either you were the same, or you know a young person like that now.
Who are reluctant readers?
“Reluctant readers” are exactly what they sound like: kids or teens who refuse to read, or avoid reading, because they believe it’s too difficult or claim they don’t enjoy it.
Sometimes they’re kids who pretend to read to satisfy a parent or teacher.
They are kids who are not choosing books because they would rather pick up a tablet, smartphone, or joystick.
More often, boys are considered reluctant readers than girls, and that’s causing boys to fall behind in school.
Why it’s important
It’s becoming an even more pressing issue in our digital age.
Maybe you’ve got kids or grandkids at home, and you’re struggling to keep screen time in check and encourage them to pick up a book.
It’s a concern in our family, for sure, and the numbers are alarming.
In 1984, only eight per cent of 13-year-old children told researchers they “never” or “hardly ever” read.
That number climbed to 22 per cent by 2014, according to Common Sense Media.
It’s a difficult battle for parents because kids also read less as they age regardless of their early reading habits.
Common Sense Media found half of nine-year-old kids read for fun daily, but that number drops to about 19 per cent once kids graduate high school.
How to reach them
You have to speak their language.
Kids who say there are no “exciting” books are likely throwing up roadblocks, but make sure you find books that are accessible to a reluctant reader.
Offer them books that are written at an appropriate reading level; your school or public librarian can pinpoint what’s best for your kids.
The publisher I write for has a lengthy roster of reluctant reader books.
Some of the YA fiction circulating on bestseller lists seem — to me, at any rate — far beyond a young teen who might be struggling.
They dwell on mature themes and are written with a style and tone to satisfy a wider market.
With Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Twilight came an explosion in book sales across all ages, and a rush (again, in my opinion) to market more books as YA regardless of reading level.
Next, pick up a book yourself.
Yeah, I know, there’s an entire column about phone addiction and screen time for adults on my horizon.
Until then, know our children are reflections of ourselves.
If you read everyday, it’s more likely your children will, too.
I suggest setting an example because I know every parent everywhere would be rolling their eyes at me if I suggested reading to their preteens, but still…
Parents who read to their kids raise kids who embrace reading.