Helping kids become readers

Reading time: About 1 and a half minutes

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss an article written by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni.

I don’t expect everyone to read as voraciously as I do. But I hope that the majority of people are able to get some pleasure out of what is one of the most reliably fun and interesting things to do in life.

But I fear I’m naive. According to a report recently released by Common Sense Media, some 22 percent of 13-year-olds and 27 percent of 17-year-olds say then never or hardly ever read for pleasure. (Thirty years ago, the same stats were eight and nine percent respectively.) I find this information devastating.

Those of us who write need to take these numbers seriously and do whatever we can to change them. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote about the report recently and said,

I’m steady. Relentless. I’m incessantly asking my nephews and nieces what they’re reading and why they’re not reading more. I’m reliably hurling novels at them, and also at friends’ kids. I may well be responsible for 10 percent of all sales of The Fault in Our Stars, a teenage love story to be released as a movie next month. Never have I spent money with fewer regrets, because I believe in reading — not just in its power to transport but in its power to transform.

When our own three children were small, my husband and I resolved that our number 1 job as parents was to turn our kids into readers. We read steadily and relentlessly to them until they were about 12 years old. Two of our children have learning disabilities and we were equally relentless with the tutoring and extra work overcoming those hurdles required.

Ironically, our most learning disabled son is probably the most committed reader of the three (he just finished a biography of Glenn Gould). But all of them read for pleasure.

If you’re not a parent, surely you know some children, whether they belong to neighbours, friends or other family members. Resolve to do what you can to help those children become readers. It will change their life. It may even change yours.