This op-ed piece is an important contribution to the ongoing discussion of literacy and reading in our current culture:
Kids Don’t Read Books Because Parents Don’t Read Books by Jordan Shapiro (posted on Forbes on May 13, 2014)
It focuses on the essential point:
The most powerful influence on whether or not kids read, and grow up to be reading adults, is their parents.
Whether they read in print or on screens is secondary—the first requirement is that kids need to be taught to make reading an important part of their lives.
I admit that I get caught up in the “print vs. digital” argument (although I tend not to argue for one or the other, but to point out that this isn’t a competition).
There is evidence which shows that our brains handle written language differently between different presentation media, which can have an impact on retention and depth of comprehension, as well as the kind of deep, slow reading required to develop empathy.
I don’t want to minimize this evidence—but Mr. Shapiro is absolutely correct to point out that framing these discussions as essentially “print vs. digital” is a distraction from the true core issue:
Parents must make time to read to their children and actively engage them with the text.
Parents must take the time to read for themselves so their children see adults reading as a normal part of life.
This—more than any other factor—is what makes kids want to read, and keep reading for the rest of their lives.