Lately, we hear more and more how children are losing their love of reading. Some apparently never had it in the first place. Others lost it along the way. There are a number of reasons being blamed for this. The heavy emphasis of education on grammar and punctuation… the attitude that it’s not ‘cool’ to read… the barrage of media that our kids can effortlessly access via gazing at a phone screen.
However, these are all reasons that children should be picking up a book.
SATs are overflowing our children’s brains with the belief that you have to give a perfect answer to everything. They are sapping creativity. The desire to do great things in life is enhanced by one’s ability to take a risk… to think outside the box… to dare to be different. Not to conform to an exact formula of how to do things. Reading a book allows children to escape from this rigidity. To go on adventures and escape the pressure of life. Or in the words of George R.R Martin, as Game of Thrones fans may recognise, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” As a child, I travelled many a night to The Faraway Tree or joined the girls at Malory Towers. Let’s give our children the chance to do this.
Then following this barrage of testing at the end of primary school, secondary school teachers wonder why they are struggling to recapture their kids’ love of the written word as they hand them a copy of Shakespeare to study! If I was a Year Seven English teacher, every child in my class would be given a copy of Wonder by R. J Palacio to reignite their interest in reading. A current book highlighting significant issues in today’s difficult world – what could be more important than teaching our kids to be kind I ask you?
And as for other kids ridiculing others into thinking reading isn’t cool, maybe they should google ‘images of celebrities reading’ to see that this is just propaganda. My point will be proved if you just tap a search into Google images of ‘Emma Watson reading’. You will be inundated! And she, my friends, rated number one on the coolness survey conducted by Buzzfeed recently – all based purely on the views of our future generation. I rest my case! And if that hasn’t convinced you enough, try telling footballers, Theo Walcott and Tim Cahill, that they aren’t cool for promoting reading to children through the ‘Reading Stars’ campaign. Or, Frank Lampard, for not only reading, but actually writing a book series for kids too.
In an age where our children progress into their teenage years via social media, they should be losing themselves in a book every night. Unwinding from the barrage of fake pictures of everyone looking perfect and living their best life. The characters in a book aren’t going to judge them. They will be there for them night after night, until the book has finished. And you know a book is a good one when you feel sad to see it come to an end and a little piece of your favourite character is left with you. You can identify with characters, not based on how they look or what they wear, but by how they act and speak. An imaginary person that is probably more real than a lot of what they see on their social media.
So, if you are reading this after having succumbed to the view that kids just don’t like to read anymore and accepted that this is just the way it is, think again!
Written by Kerry Gibb, author of the popular children’s book series, It’s A Kid’s Life, and finalist in the IAN Children’s Book of the Year Awards. She is passionate about giving author talks at schools to promote a love of reading and writing in children.