Young People Reading

Once when I was at the gym, a gym buddy told me how he felt young children these days aren’t as engrossed with reading as they used to be, that nowadays they are in essence glued to technological escapes rather than literary ones. In many respects I think he isn’t wrong. Technology is constantly changing, and certainly isn’t what it once was. In many ways it has improved our lives, but in others it seems to have taken over our lives as well.

Reading is a great way to escape all that, just as walking or exercising is, because it’s good to unplug and recharge, if you take my meaning. For young children, studies have said it’s important for them to not get glued to technology, because what they really need is that connection and interaction with their parents.

Certainly one of the best ways, if not the best, to get a child to love reading is for parents to read to them from an early age, and it establishes that necessary connection. I remember my own parents reading to me many books when I was little, especially before bed. It’s a great way not only to get children to love reading and spark their imagination, but to forge a bond between parent and child.

Once I was a volunteer for a library that had a special annex. The books there—all children’s books—couldn’t be checked out, just read, and I had to watch over the annex for a few hours. Once in a while, I would offer to read to a child, and even though it didn’t happen often, I loved it.

Some of the best children’s stories began with people telling stories and/or playing with children. A. A. Milne was inspired to create Winnie-the-Pooh by watching his son Christopher play with his stuffed toys. When Reverend Wilbert Awdry’s son (coincidentally also named Christopher) was sick, he told him a story about a sad little steam engine named Edward, which was the beginning of his Railway Series (yes, Edward came before Thomas, as did Gordon and Henry). Lewis Carroll and J. M. Barrie also interacted with children, through which they were inspired to write their respective masterpieces, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan.

I have no children of my own (yet), but I do hope to be a father someday. I definitely would read to them my favorite books and series from when I was a child, but I would also encourage them to find their own favorites. Parents have tried to keep children from reading certain titles, even going so far as to ask for books to be banned. While parents seek to protect, I feel they need to let their children make their own decisions too, and teach them to approach reading with an open mind.

The important thing is whether a book entices a child to keep reading. I remember how on an Amazon Prime documentary about Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, a single father raising a daughter said that he knew little about R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series, which his daughter read, but knew if they were banned, his daughter might lose the drive to keep reading because those books specifically were what motivated her to keep reading.

Further Reading
  1. Cheadle, Robbie. Teaching your child to read.
  2. French, Charles F. Benefits of Reading Revisited.

38 thoughts on “Young People Reading

  1. I wish there wasn’t so much emphasis on this. While it continues to retain utmost importance to the overall wellbeing of adulthood, it’s discouraging just as much. For example, my mind can’t focus on words long enough to comprehend all parts of a single book. I’m a multitasker. Sitting still long enough to read is impossible. I get bored and antsy. Additionally, my brain trying to intake so much information at once proves little effectiveness.
    The idea is to learn language. To learn words and sounds, writing, and fluency, spelling and punctuation. There needs to be greater emphasis on alternative avenues besides reading books.

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  2. Andrew,

    Excellent article. I really enjoyed reading this one, and it hit close to home. My wife, daughter and I were just discussing this very topic three days ago. Keep the articles coming, as I look forward to reading them.



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  3. Wonderful, thought-provoking post, Andrew. Yes, children need to have an interest in reading early on, and it’s up to their parents (and grandparents) to keep the spark going! Cheers, and well said, my friend!

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  4. Thank you, yes! I love your thoughts here on the evolution of the world in relation to reading and how it is just as important as it was when literacy became widely spread. I say teach a child to read and give them the freedom to discover their own taste in books and explore whatever narrative and world compels them. Banned books simply should not be a thing!

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  7. How I agree with every word. I was read to as a child, and in my turn read to my own children. It’s a most pleasurable experience on both sides.
    Also, on banning books. I loved Enid Blyton when growing up, from the very early ones, like Noddy, to books like the Famous Five and the Adventure series. (The Mountain of Adventure, The Sea of Adventure etc), and my favourite, Shadow the Sheepdog. Her books were banned for a while citing that she didn’t stretch children’s vocabulary, and accusations of racism in Noddy books, because the gollies were the baddies.
    However, I, and my friends who read Blyton, are not racist, nor has our vocabulary remained stilted by reading her books. The opposite has happened. Because I enjoyed her books so much, I developed a lifelong love of reading.
    Reading stimulates the imagination as films and other technology can’t do. And imagination is used in much more than writing fiction!

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  8. I loved reading Goosebumps as a kid–the ones for kids and then the ones for older kids as well. That was one of my (many) favorite series, growing up–along with Animorphs, Babysitters Club (all the different iterations), and a few others I’m probably forgetting. I read Nancy Drew when I started finding them at Thrift Stores several years ago.

    I think a mark of maturity is knowing what’s appropriate to read and what’s not at your age/maturity level–and really, the reason why you’re reading it. I bought Mein Kampf several years ago, to read from a historical POV, but still haven’t managed to read past the first page. I had someone tell me he’d never read a work of evil like that. It was an interesting matter of perspective. I think sometimes people jump to this conclusion that when you read something, it’ll control your mind like a parasite. We forget we can think critically, and we can teach children to do the same.

    Just some very short thoughts on a wide topic that could go on for ages. One of those debates about “rewriting history” and over sheltering kids (to extremes) that I’ve never really understood, especially when it comes from conservative “Christians.” Have they cracked the Bible open lately? Some of the stories the Bible tells about the many falls of humanity–not exactly light bedtime reading.

    Thanks for the thought provoking blog. Take care.

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  9. HI Andrew, thank you so much for linking to my post here. I really enjoyed your post and your thoughts about reading. The books you have mentioned are also books I loved to read. I didn’t know Thomas as a child but read them over and over again to my sons. I loved reading to my boys and I got to revisit all my favourites from my own childhood. It is a wonderful experience to share your favourite books with your onw kids.

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  10. Great post, Andrew! To bestow the love of reading is a wonderful gift. Winnie the Pooh and the Little Engine books were two of my early childhood favourites. I remember both my grandmother and my mother reading them to me. Read is still a big part of my life and books are my ultimate escape.

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  11. Very nice Andrew. I was born into a reading family and all these years have had to read every day or I feel incomplete. My greatest Christmasses as a boy were when I received fifteen or twenty books as gifts.. Thanks for the post.

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  12. The older I get, the more I find that technology advancements in regards to websites and social media are making things worse rather than better. Before they were connecting the world and allowing the access of information – however now much of these places have become platforms where people attack each other, where incorrect and even harmful information is spread rapidily.

    There have been studies done on the damage to focus and attention, following the rise of social media. Where we are expected to take in bite-size chunks. I have even fallen victim myself. My focus used to be so intense at times, but now I can barely sit through a movie (I am enjoying!) without grabbing my phone, without reacting to the bleep of a notification. Even when I’ve turned notifications off, I find myself reaching for it out of habit. It is definitely becoming an addiction.

    I used to be able to devour books every day, now I am struggling to get my focus with them, to turn my time to them over just “scrolling”. I am actively fighting against these destructive behaviours.

    The importance of reading (and listening to audio books) should become a strong staple in children’s lives. This can even be reading comics, as some children aren’t able to stay captivated by lots of words and the pictorals can help.

    I remember “reading time” in primary school where we got 30 mins of quiet time to read. I remember story time, where in the evening, family members would read books to us. I wonder how much of this is gone now – replaced by noise and distraction.

    Excellent article, Andrew.

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  13. I too was read to by my parents as a child and my grandparents always encouraged me to buy books with birthday money. I agree, getting children to read can only be done by reading to them and showing them how exciting books are! We didn’t have a TV when I was a child, but we did have LOTS of books and I don’t feel I missed out on anything!

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