On raising a generation of readers

The Irish Times looks at why we must work to raise a new generation of readers. In this house we’re batting 50% with the readers: a reluctant, late reader who is now voracious, a natural early reader who can’t stand it, a natural early reader who can’t stop reading, and a reluctant, late reader who can’t be bothered. All of them were read to regularly, all had shelves of books right in their rooms, but all came out different. So, my point here is like my point with all things parenting: do your best to lead by example and cross your fingers. If they came out with a manual on how to operate their wee machines, we’d probably have an easier time of it, but they don’t. It’s mostly guesswork, mistake acknowledgement, and consistency that will serve you best. Good luck not fucking them up, people!

Reading is a pleasure but it is also a unique form of mental exercise. Allowing children to create their own interpretations of constructed worlds in their minds is a gift which cannot be replicated by any other form of media. Of course visual media has its place but it doesn’t allow us to fill in the gaps. Ask a child to draw a picture of Peppa Pig and they will give their closest rendition of the well-known cartoon character. Ask them for a picture of CS Lewis’ Mr. Tumnus and you will get all sorts of variations.

And that is why we must always fight for our children’s right to read. And not only read in school, but under the covers when they know they’re supposed to be in bed. Or when they’re trying not to feel sick from reading in the car, or on the bus, or basically anywhere because they need to finish the page, the chapter or the book. We must let our children be themselves and become themselves through the books they choose to read and give them the respect to know their own minds.

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