Monday, October 06, 2008

Learning to Read, or Loving Reading?

Today's "but are the kids reading" article is from the New York Times, part of its The Future of Reading series. Using Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers examines how publishers, authors and libraries are using video games to get people reading. Easy example: PJ Haarsma designed a video game to tie in with his book. (Those of you who attended the 07 Kidlitosphere Conference may remember meeting PJ.) Jack Martin from NYPL is quoted: “I think we have to ask ourselves, ‘What exactly is reading?’ Reading is no longer just in the traditional sense of reading words in English or another language on a paper.”

A reading professor is quoted in the article; and I wonder at what he said that didn't get in the article. Because what he says seems incomplete: "So rather than say, ‘Oh, books are irrelevant in the modern era because there are all these other media available,’ I would ask shouldn’t we be doing a better job of teaching kids how to read?”

My knee-jerk response to this is that it's not about teaching kids HOW to read; it's teaching kids to love reading. Oh, some kids are born loving reading; but for other kids, it is all about the right book at the right time, which may occur at age 5, 15, or 30. Are people encouraging that reading is to be loved? Or is it viewed as another lesson, another chore? Of course, this professor may have gone on to say that. Or his definition of "how to read" may include reading because you want to, not because you can and you have to.

In viewing the literacy skills and interactions with text we see with games and books, I point once again to Cathy's Book. My prediction: game tie ins with books, or book tie ins with games, isn't the future. The future is authors raised with gaming as a part of their regular lives writing books like Cathy's Book, bringing that interactive, reader controls the story attitude towards traditional books, with electronic publishing providing a reading experience that is different from anything we've seen today.


Becky said...

Amen about teaching them to LOVE reading! I teach high school English (AP & 11th), and I so appreciate the J.K. Rowlings and Stephenie Meyers of the publishing world...not for their writing per se, but for their ability to capture an entire generation into seeing the beauty of reading for escape and pleasure. I have students who are gripped by a novel, and once that reading experience is over, they come to me begging for something to keep their "fix" going. I've seen it over and over again--if you can get them reading and hooked on it, they will thirst after that experience and keep reading! Thanks for your posts. I keep my eye on your blog and appreciate your discussions.

Jen Robinson said...

Amen to your point about teaching kids to LOVE reading, Liz. And in the context of the future of reading, you might be interested in this post by Michael Grant (author of Gone).

Franki said...

I agree completely with your point about kids loving to read. It is the key. On the other hand, I have worked with lots of kids over the years who really struggle with reading and it is hard to love something if it is never easy enough to enjoy--thus the teaching how to read being essential. It is the teacher's/librarian's job to know books and kids well so that a child can find books they love--and books they can read. They go through the motions, and say they love lots of books, but when you talk more, they never actually finish the books or they've not understood the book. So, for me, it is a combination of the two--always.

Anonymous said...

Nothing helps develop literacy like reading for pleasure. There is plenty of research (like those OECD PISA reports) which links the amount of time spent reading for pleasure to development of literacy and subsequently academic success.
There is always heaps that can be done to help this process. And I wouldn't generally say that there are some kids born loving reading - they are most likely the product of a home which values reading and thus they have always had a print rich environment, adults modelling reading for pleasure, and adults encouraging development of literacy and a love of reading through time spent reading together with those children from birth on. Teacher librarians (and other librarians and teachers too) have the opportunity to try to link kids to 'gateway' books that can help to bridge the gap if they have not had all of those other supports to help them to develop a love of reading. I don't actually see any of this great drought of reading myself, in my city and in the school where I work there are plenty of kids getting into books. In fact I am more concerned about the effect all of the media stories about how 'kids today just don't read' might effect their perceptions and lead them to the conclusion that they probably shouldn't be enjoying reading as this is abnormal (they keep hearing that no kids today are reading after all).
I'm not sure about the gaming tie in thing, I think that really good books, captivating plots that are well written will always win out over gimmicks. Story is everything, even with gaming.