Friday, February 21, 2014

I'm not happy to be proven right.

For quite a while I've been of the opinion that reading, as a leisure activity, is on the decline.   But it was not a happy vindication to read that the number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978. So postulates this post in the Atlantic and I doubt that it only applies to Americans.  A full one quarter of the population had not opened one book, whether paper or e-book, in the previous year. 


I've read that reading is more difficult than watching television, for example.    Vegging out on the sofa and letting the colour images wash over you doesn't take much energy or interaction.   I have a suspicion it has as much to do with reading ability as energy.   If I get lost in the pages of a book, I'm not conscious of any energy expenditure.   But if you've ever watched a child who is a poor reader struggle through text that is too difficult it is almost painful to watch.   A couple of short words like 'and' and 'the' and 'a' are raced through while every multi-syllabic word is hesitatingly sounded out.  

B . . . u . . . B . . . Bu . . . t . . . But . . . e .  e . . r . . (long pause)  butter . . . f . . f . . l . . e . . butterflee . . . butterfle . . . . butterfly.   

I'd have lost interest in the rest of the story by now, too.

So a small suggestion to those who buy books, especially for that impressionable age group of about five to nine years of age, when they are deciding if reading is something they can and will do . . . or don't and won't.   Pay attention to what is called readability.  Some books, meant for children, are far too difficult for the age group that would be interested in the topic, plot and characters. Think of seven or eight year olds trying to get through the first Harry Potter book.  It's not going to happen in the vast majority of cases.    Ask advice from a teacher or librarian or small bookstore owner.   

It is relatively simple to find 'easy readers' that suit the primary crowd but once children are pre-teens, books that interest them at an easier reading level are more difficult to identify. And this is the age where the reading turn-off occurs, in my opinion.   If children aren't interested in reading by the end of elementary school, in most cases the pattern is set.   Typing 'easy pre-teen books' into Amazon's mighty search engine and brings up Thomas the Tank books and Amelia Bedelia and other book titles that a pre-teen would probably find insulting:  My First Reader.   

Perhaps I should start a list.

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