From the time I was old enough to recognize even the simplest of words, I fell in love with reading. I read books, magazines, newspapers, cereal boxes, billboards–anything with words on them that ended up in front of my face. By the time I was seven or eight, I was so much a regular at the local library that the librarians knew me by name. It was a book-lover’s Disneyland for me, and I couldn’t imagine anything better than spending all day Saturday there, reading and reading–and taking home more books to read until my next visit.
Not so with my children. I introduced them to books early on, and they loved sitting next to me as I read to them, demanding that I read their favorite stories again and again. But as they got older, all that changed. Sports and TV and video games stole more and more of their time until I found myself begging, cajoling, and bargaining with them in attempts to get them to read beyond their required schoolwork.
“Why? What did I do?” my youngest protested one day when I nearly ordered him to read a book. I was shocked. It was as if he thought I were punishing him by telling him to read a book.
To this day none of my children are avid readers. They occasionally read a book or magazine, but in addition to their childhood distractions of TV and sports, they now spend much of their time on the Internet. (Okay, so do I, but not to the exclusion of reading for pleasure.) Where did I go wrong? Or did I? Obviously someone is still buying books or we authors wouldn’t continue getting contracts to write them. But will that continue if the younger generations view reading as a less than desirable pastime?
I know there are certainly exceptions to this rule, and that’s wonderful. But as a rule, younger people spend less leisure time choosing to read than many of us “older folks.” Does that matter? If so, why, and what can be done about it? Maybe some of you are teachers and have some suggestions. If so, I’d love to hear them. I personally make a point to buy books for my grandchildren, including the complete set of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia (my own personal all-time favorite). But sadly, only one of the seven grandchildren I’ve given them to has actually taken the time to read them.
This is a real concern for me, and something tells me I’m not alone. Ideas/comments/suggestions? I’d love to hear them.