Disclaimer: I’m not much of a book reader. The last book I read — James Comey’s — I didn’t read at all. I listened to him read it.
But, the Washington Post says, kids today aren’t even doing that, raising a new literary warning.
Kids today, eh?
It’s not that they don’t know how to read, the study from the American Psychological Association says; it’s just that they don’t want to read a book for pleasure. Instead, they immerse themselves in their connected world.
So what? How many things are you doing for pleasure that you don’t find pleasurable?
One in 3 U.S. high school seniors did not read a book for pleasure in 2016. In the same time period, 82 percent of 12th-graders visited sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram every day.
That sounds horrible to those quick to clutch the pearls,but there’s nothing much more in the warning that proves an impact.
Granted there’s plenty of attention to the possibility there might be danger ahead, mind you.
Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and one of the authors of the study, said the lack of leisure reading is troubling. For her, the most important discovery hidden in the data is this statistic: In the 1970s, about 60 percent of high school seniors reported reading a book, magazine or newspaper every single day. Four decades later, in 2016, 16 percent of high school seniors reported doing so.
“This decline in reading print media — particularly the decline in reading books, it’s concerning,” said Twenge, author of the book “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood — and What That Means for the Rest of Us.”
The reason for the concern is that the skill set and attention it takes to digest concepts in long-form writing are quite different from glancing at a text message or status update, she said.
“Reading long-form texts like books and magazine articles is really important for understanding complex ideas and for developing critical thinking skills,” Twenge said. “It’s also excellent practice for students who are going on to college.”
The decline in reading rates began in the ’80s, the researchers said.
In essence, this is a social media warning disguised as a literacy problem. It says the lack of time spent reading (again, for pleasure) could lead to poorer performance, but it offers no proof it does. It also points out that social media “could lead to increased isolation and mental health issues.” Not much new there.
It suggests parents enforce a digital media ban, but don’t say they have to read a book instead.
“Litter your house with eye catching titles,” one expert says.
They recommend graphic novels.
Another way to instill a love for reading is to teach kids how useful it can be. The next time your child comes to you with a question, Willingham said, tell them to go find the answer by visiting a library and reading about the issue on their own. Explain that books offer a level of in-depth knowledge not available through the “instant gratification” of the Internet.
In other words: Pretend it’s 1974 and don’t encourage your kids to use the tools and resources that are available to them in the most efficient manner.
No telling where that sort of thing might lead.