When I was a child, I was embarrassed by lots of things. I had such extreme chicken legs that it was nearly impossible to find pants that fit correctly. I was always embarrassed about having “highwaters.” I was embarrassed by my crushes and the teenage terror of rejection. I was embarrassed when we had to wear out obnoxious cheerleader warm-ups to school because they had these awful swishy pants and everyone glared at you every time you moved. I was embarrassed by acne and awkwardness and all those other high school standbys. One thing I never thought to be embarrassed of? Reading a book.
The idea of being embarrassed about reading is really shocking to me, and more than a little sad. Yet a recent survey of over 21,000 children has told the scary story. Reading is in the decline and almost one in five kids would be “embarrassed” to be caught reading a book by their friends. Can we get some pictures of Justin Bieber reading Lord of the Flies floating around the internet, stat? How about a book club sponsored by The Wanted?
The good news is that a full 33% considered reading to be “cool.” But overall, teens are spending less time reading. The trends are moving in troubling directions, thanks in part to other entertainment options like television and mobile devices.
We all know how important reading is. I like to think that Reading Rainbow taught us something. You’re welcome for getting the song stuck in your head all day. You are singing it right now, aren’t you? Anyways, most parents are trying to make time every day to read to their young children. The question now is what we can do to support older kids and teens to create good reading habits.
I think parents need to focus on finding exciting literature that teens are interested in. I would say try to be a role model, but teens think their parents are lame. Maybe you should start to hide your reading? A little reverse psychology, maybe? You could give your kids a list of books they aren’t allowed to read.
Really though, parents need to think of something. Kids have enough insecurities. They shouldn’t be worried about reading. And if they are, moms and dads might want to look at underlying issues. Are the teens already worried about being perceived as “dorky?” Are we talking about teens who want to be seen as macho or strong worrying about books hurting their image?
Chances are, if a teen doesn’t want to be seen reading a book in public, there’s a bigger insecurity or problem there. Hopefully parents can talk with their kids to address that issue and encourage them to get reading again. That, or we can pool our resources and get One Direction to sponsor a new reading initiative.