If the habit is acquired at home, why can’t it be maintained there?
Recently, the Global Teacher Prize was awarded to an American teacher whose achievements include ensuring that her pupils between the ages of 12 and 14 read an average of 40 books a year.
This is precisely the age when most kids give up reading to do other things with their free time, especially video gaming.
According to the award winner Nancie Atwell, the key is to let them choose the subjects and, ultimately, she refuses to impose any literary genre or age brackets associated with reading tastes. She believes that it is very important for a child or young adult to be able to choose the book. This choice has a direct impact on the young person’s enjoyment of reading, ensuring that they associate this activity with concepts such as fun and pleasure, far from any sense of imposition or strictness. To enable an empathetic relationship between readers and books, the whole concept of compulsory reading from the age of 12 needs a complete rethink.
It is no coincidence that this is also the age at which cases of academic failure and the number of school dropouts increase and the area where some schools have focused their strategies on educational innovation to keep students engaged with the learning process.
We are going to examine four ideas that can have a positive impact, to ensure that the habit of reading and literary competence are not lost:
- Let them choose the format of the book. One very clear example is when there is a preference for comics. This format, which combines text and drawings, may seem less serious, less constructive and less educational, but they love it. Helping them to develop a taste for reading also requires them to learn to distinguish between high and low quality literature, and there are great works within the genre of comics and graphic novels.
- Let them choose the genre and subject. Science fiction is a subject that can also become dominant from the age of 12. Finding content with which they can connect is absolutely essential at this age, and sci-fi achieves this. As adults, we should not be afraid of pigeonholing. These subjects ensure that young people maintain the reading habit. Each individual should be able to go at their own pace and decide when to make the leap to other types of literature. The fact is that, as we also remarked above about comics, there are works of science fiction whose quality is in no way inferior to more realistic literature. Indeed, they develop and nurture the imagination better than any other genre.
- Link reading to other activities: literary tours, theater or movie adaptations, videogame versions of books or sagas etc. All of these interrelationships allow them to share the content of the book socially and connect with other forms of leisure, which will allow them to reinforce the association of reading with the concept of fun.
- Reading during adolescence is an effective tool for combating the stress of a period of life changes and it is also a way of fighting boredom. Simply keeping a quiet place in the house where the teenager can carry on reading, just like when they were a child, can help with this development.
As Nancie Atwell told Scholastic, the best way to make children read and love reading, is to let them choose the books.