When was the last time your child had one uninterrupted hour of free time? I know it might be hard to remember here in the midst of the school year with piano lessons, travel soccer, dance team and piles of homework, but think hard. What did she do with that free time? I bet she didn’t pick up a book and read because she wanted to, did she? If so, she’s in the minority of kids who read for pleasure.
Today, with our culture’s hyper focus on social and digital media, and the ubiquitous iPhone, our brains are literally incapable of taking in long format written words — particularly our kids! They are relying on the quick fix accessibility of scrolling mindlessly though visuals on Instagram or Snapchat. That is their escape, no curling up on the couch on a rainy day to just read. And that digital hyper focus comes with a crash at the end.
Reading seems almost quaint and old-fashioned compared to the constant stimulation that screens provide, but that stimulation is only a shallow replacement for intellectual engagement! Our eyes and ears might be involved, but let’s be honest, it doesn’t require a lot of brain power to analyze those memes and GIFs that we enjoy so much. Reading makes us turn off the sensory and turn on the abstract — which is proven to foster problem solving and critical thinking skills. But who has time for that when the Facebook feed is calling?
Spark the Conversation: The old adage “Use it or lose it” has never been so accurate. The less we read, the less we want to. Our kids were practically born with technology in their hands, so how can they know the joy and benefit of reading if we don’t expose them to it? We parents must take an honest look at ourselves and the lifestyle our families have embraced. We must decide how we can build a bit more quiet reading time into our family life. Start by having a different family member choose an article of interest each week. Have everyone read it and choose a night when everyone is home for dinner to discuss it. Slowly work up to longer formats, and eventually get into books. I know I’ll be choosing gymnast Simone Biles’ new biography for my little girl, and I’m hoping I’ll get my favorite Gilmore Girl, Lauren Graham’s book in return