Kids WANT More Books!

Now that the PIR issue has finally been resolved, my mind has turned to other book related issues. As Mike Shuttleworth, Program Manager at the Centre for Youth Literature (State Library of Victoria) mentioned the other day; perhaps we should be focussing our energies on generating more readers.

To me, as a parent, and a children’s and young adult writer, I think this is a fabulous idea.

Young readers are the ones who have embraced computer technology – and are choosing it as an alternative form of entertainment to books – or so I thought.

That was until I spoke to my teenager on the weekend. He is a serious gamer – has reached an advanced combat level in Runescape  (I think that means he’s pretty good – he should be, the number of hours he ‘practices’).

He started high school this year and on the weekend we were having a discussion about how things were going.  I asked him, “If there was one thing you could change about your school, what would it be?” His answer was spontaneous and surprising. “Less computers in the library and more books.”

Admittedly, he has always been an avid reader, but it seems that so are lots of kids at his school – but they are being turned off the library; particularly by the lack of non-fiction books. I think sometimes that we assume that if we give kids access to the computer and the internet, they can find out whatever they want.

My son still loves to curl up with a real book and is still keen to learn about anything and everything. But he doesn’t want the superficial facts like the speed of the fastest car in the world, he wants to know how that car is built and what makes it run.

It makes me wonder if our school libraries are selling our kid’s short – particularly at the high school level.

Are we just assuming our kids prefer computers to books? Perhaps they want both?

The same son went to a birthday party on the weekend – his carefully chosen present for the guest of honour – a book. (Received with rapt appreciation).

I know that both my boys went through danger periods where they ‘almost stopped’ reading because of the lack of books that interested them in their school libraries.

We live in a fairly remote location, but the idea of them ‘giving up’ on reading was so frightening that I joined three libraries – the furthest of which is a 45 minute drive to get to.

It makes me wonder; before we replace bookshelves in our school libraries with computer desks, perhaps we should think carefully. Maybe the answer to encouraging more readers is to offer them more books.


10 thoughts on “Kids WANT More Books!

  1. Excellent points, Dee. Of course I hope my boys grow up to be avid readers, but I think the accessibility of great reading material is going to be a huge factor. I guess I’ll be spending my time going to libraries too!!

  2. I am impressed with the number and variety of children’s and young adult books in our local libraries. The kids section is almost as large as the adult. Maybe school libraries need to talk to their local council libraries to find out what children are reading and include these in their collection.

  3. People joke that I wear my camera and my laptop as fashion accessories. BUT you won’t find me reading a ‘book’ for pleasure on an electrical advise. There is nothing like the comfort of curling up in a chair – or stretching out on a bed – with a good, solid book in hand. Reading is relaxing, and propped up at a computer just doesn’t cut it.

    Neither of my boys are teens yet… But I have been blessed with an avid reader who has loved books from infancy – followed closely by a little livewire, who consistently shot through before the end of the story. But through persistence and shared, cosy reading experiences, no-one was more shocked (or delighted!) than this mum when second son also caught the bug – all be it at 8 years of age. I never thought I’d have to tell my youngest son to put the book down – but now I do… regularly! Both boys eat books (and leave them littered around the house!!!!) – and delight in regularly revisiting familiar favourites.

    My biggest concern is the fact that the libraries/bookshops may run out of books suited to their age! It’s a concern my eldest son recently expressed for himself – and we’re widening our network of libraries to cater for this.

    Teenagers can get a little bit prickly, which leads people to make all sorts of assumptions about what they do and don’t like – will and won’t do… I think if teachers (and parents) are excited and passionate about books, and share a connection with teens, then that’s a great foundation to build on for literacy.

    Don’t assume they won’t be interested. The challenge is to make sure they are. And sometimes (yes I’m serious here) you can go back to early literacy experiences to do this… shared reading, reading aloud (and allowed!), expressive reading and yes, even reading picture books for fun. Because let’s be honest – picture books are written as much for the adult as the child. And I could list a number of recent experiences where high school students have been captivated and engaged by picture books.

    I think if you make the connection – and share your enthusiasm – then others enjoy the experience themselves.

    Phew! This is almost a blog in itself, Dee… Am I on some sort of horse here? I’m scared stiff of horses, and think I may need to climb down…


  4. Thanks everyone for your comments.

    Kat, I totally agree with what you are saying. I still read books with my kids.

    And it has certainly been an issue for me where my kids have run out of books to read at their school library. That’s when they started to lose interest in reading. I did start reading to them again at this point – and spent a lot of time at other libraries to source books of interest to them.

    I love hearing about kids who ‘eat’ books.

    When I was in Brisbane recently, the State Librarians were also unhappy with how many bookshelves had been replaced by computers – even the atmosphere of the library changes.


  5. I wonder if the advent of the Kindle (and other like devices) in Aust will make an impact. In the future I imagine these things will give kids, and adults, instant access to a huge number of books – and an easy way to search for the particular books that interest them. All our boys enjoy reading, although I wouldn’t call them bookworms, but the eldest will only read books about cricket, and there’s not a lot of fiction about cricket!
    Much as I like holding a book, I am seduced by the idea of not losing my place in the book when it slips out of my hands, or being able to increase the font size so I can read even though I didn’t bring my glasses!

  6. According to the book ‘Everything bad is good for you’ by Stephen Johnson, both books and computer games challenge the mind in different ways, so kids value both for different reasons. Even though computer games don’t challenge their imaginations so much, they force them to make decisions based on limited information, which is a good skill to cultivate.

    Anyway, your last point is definitely correct!

  7. Sounds like an interesting book, Ryan.

    I’m sure Kindle is going to have an impact, Trudie, but I still think it’s a lot easier to find out about a book by picking it up off the shelf and looking through it. That might be because I’m on Satellite Broadband and my internet is so slow; but I find having to wait for searches and then finding out I haven’t been accurate enough in my criteria and have to start again.

    Dee (who still thinks there is nothing better than poring over bookshelves searching for the right book):-)

  8. And then there is the smell of books that you just can’t get through a computer screen….or that occasional indulgence of a bubble bath, a glass of bubbly and a book…don’t think the laptop would work there either!

    Just had to add my 2 cents worth 🙂


  9. Excellent blog, Dee. And one that should generate a lot more discussion amongst authors/illustrators and the publishing industry. If book shops are the backbone of children’s books, School libraries are the muscles holding them straight and true.
    It is in school libraries where the love to reading is encouraged and fed.
    Let’s hope those in charge with their computer-generated madness will see sense.

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