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.