Quick, where’s your phone? It’s in your hand, silly — how else would you be reading this in the school pickup line? But what an easy way to occupy the five minutes you have before the kids get in, or while you’re waiting on them at soccer practice. Honestly, sometimes that mindless scrolling is what you need on those short breaks, but how many times have you let time get away from you on a lazy rainy day and realized that you’ve been mindlessly scrolling for an hour? I have to admit, it happens to me more often than not!
Most of the time, I have a book in my bag in case of unexpected downtime (what’s that?!?), but I end up getting sucked into reading social media feeds or quick blog posts.
If I’m a lifelong reader and still struggle with making time to read real books, how can I expect my kids, who haven’t known a world without iPhones, to look forward to something so different from their beloved devices?
The science behind our fixation on our devices is real, and breaking out of that habit in favor of reading is an uphill battle. Our phones contain a bounty of sensory stimulation that requires no effort from us. Our brains are getting that superficial stimulation, and we are missing out on the deeper-reaching benefits of reading.
Reading is known to help broaden our world view, to foster creative thinking and problem-solving skills. It can transport us to a land of fantasy or inform us about real life issues in cultures far from home. I want that for my children! I am so glad that they have so much information at their fingertips, but I fear that the overwhelming amount of it is paralyzing!
That’s why it is so important to instill in our kids a respect for and love of real paper and ink books. I love my Kindle app as much as the next mom, but I have to admit that I can’t resist checking texts when they pop up, even when I’m engrossed in a new novel. With a real book in my hands, I’m not going to get distracted by a pop-up notification of a comment on my latest Snapchat story.
But how can we help our kids appreciate this “old school” format of learning and growing? Like many things, it starts early. I still remember my mother’s exact cadence when she read me The Monster at the End of This Book, featuring “Lovable, Furry old Grover.” I had to have been in preschool when that was my favorite book, but I remember it perfectly. And I read it to my own children the exact same way. Have fun reading to your little kids. Even if they don’t remember the stories, they’ll remember the warmth and safety of your lap and your attention.
As they get older and are learning to read, ask them to read to you. When you model for them what it feels like to have uninterrupted attention and free reign to learn and imagine, they will start to understand what it takes to do that on their own in later years.
In their teen years, help your children bridge the gap between required reading and reading for pleasure. There are many writers who understand and embrace the tumultuous time that is teendom. A modern author who writes beautifully about the joys and woes of teens is John Green — start there and work up to classics from likewise teen-friendly authors like Kurt Vonnegut and Mark Twain.
In our culture obsessed with measurable skill sets, book reading is overlooked and under appreciated. But we cannot forget that for thousands of years, people have gained knowledge and skill by hearing the stories of others and passing along their own. Technology is helping us to pass those stories along at an incredible rate, but let’s not forget the restorative beauty in shutting out all the outside noise, and diving fully into a story that has a little more depth than JBieb’s latest Twitter rant.