In Praise of – Children Reading

A Lament

There have been many times that I have been embarrassed to be caught with a book. Like when I’ve wandered away at a party and became absorbed in something that I found. Or when I’d navigate school hallways eyes firmly stuck on the page, heedless of people jumping out of my way. As a teenager, I went through a phase of only speaking to people in the accent of my favourite character of the moment. That was pretty daft in retrospect. I (probably should) find it humiliating. 

However, I have never been embarrassed by the act of reading itself or of being perceived as a bookie or reader. I consider it a gift that I can immerse myself in a story and lose myself in another world or perspective. Books have always been a social experience for me. After all, stories are designed to be shared with other people.
According to a report in the Telegraph today – article HERE – written by  , the Digital Culture Editor – children are embarrassed to be caught reading. 
In a survey of 21000 children the following statistics were derived:
  • 17% of youngsters would be embarrassed if their friends saw them reading.
  • Three in ten youngsters read daily in their own time, compared with four in ten in 2005.
  • 54% of those questioned said they preferred watching TV to reading.
  • Of those who did read outside class, 47.8% said they read fiction, down from 51.5% in 2005.

It’s not all horrible news and the article does point out that sales of children’s books have actually increased slightly this year on last and that there are a number of book fairs and festivals offering forums for young people to engage with others who also love reading which are being enthusiastically embraced.  

The Telegraph article goes into the pressures on the primary distributors towards children’s literacy – at home, schools and libraries. Suffice to say that I agree that we should seek to encourage children to learn to love learning and reading as early as possible and believe that we should be adding to – not cutting from – these resources. 

However I do think believe that it’s tragic that such a high proportion of young people don’t want to be perceived as readers. With the re-emergence of observably intelligent characters on television – such as Sherlock Holmes; constant adaptations of complicated and involved children’s books into films and an increasingly mainstream Geek (here defined as passionate about being informed on a particular topic) Culture; it seems to me as though it’s cool to embrace the hobbies that you love, be they sports, music, art or literature.
Take that aside; the technology available in this country means that young people in particular can access books in a variety of different mediums – from phones, e-readers, paperbacks and more. An argument can be raised that with text messages, emails and social networking; young people are in fact reading and writing profusely – albeit in non-traditional ways. There are now published works based on text messages – I don’t know if this was taken into account during the original survey but I am confident that children will not be embarrassed to be caught gaming or online. 


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