Readers Wanted

hulk thinkWhile I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, video games were in their infancy, and most television shows were pretty bad.

It could be argued that most television shows are pretty bad today, as well, and while that would be true, there are so MANY more to choose from that it’s much easier to find some that are entertaining. I’ve honestly lost count of how many channels we have, not to mention the number of online venues, and when you contrast that to the 3 and occasionally 4 channels I had while growing up, the difference is obvious.

melancholyVideo games, while entertaining and engrossing when I was a kid, just couldn’t pull most people into weeks and months of continued gaming like they do today.

My kids have never been big video gamers, but they’ve certainly enjoyed more electronic media than was available when I was their age. And they read less. I blame part of that on the availability of some quality video entertainment, but I have to lay a lot of blame at the feet of the school system. When my son was in high school the program was so rigorous he had no time left for free reading. When he was reading it was always for class — some shattering autobiography of traumatized modern people, or some other “classic” that will be forgotten in a generation.

My daughter has it a little better, but to maintain her high GPA she, too, spends a lot of time studying. And in the last two years her reading for fun quotient has dropped significantly.

lolani kirkMy wife and I were big readers growing up; we’ve instilled in them a love of story, and all four of us analyze story and plot structure and character development. I’ve certainly encouraged them to continue reading. Yet it just doesn’t seem to be happening very often. They always find other things to do with their spare time. Both of them play instruments, and my son is usually involved on some art project (he’s an art major, after all) either for class or for his own amusement. My daughter is super busy with sports activities after school in addition to the school work.

I’ve sort of resigned myself, at this point, to the fact neither of them are ever going to read as much as I have, and it saddens me. I’ve thought about applying some rationing to the situation (you can only do THAT if you read this much), but both of them are actually quite balanced with their consumption of alternate entertainment sources. It would be different if they were binge watching movies or shows or constantly playing video games.

one more thingPart of the change in the amount they read has to be due to the increase in decent media entertainment. But I am absolutely convinced that the state school system has its head up some place unmentionable in regards to turning kids into readers. I probably would have ended up loving reading anyway, but that natural inclination was definitely fostered by the long lost tradition of English teachers providing long lists of books to choose from to read for class credit, some of which were full of adventure rather than angst and important lessons about togetherness. I discovered that good adventure stories had that stuff in them anyway.

If my kids, coming from a family that loves storytelling and reading, aren’t reading that much, what’s happening in other families? Are we going to see fewer and fewer readers in years to come? I worry. And I worry that I’m trying to master a dying art form.