In today’s digital age the draw towards the ease and instant gratification of the T.V., Internet, video games, and smart phones seems to be an inexorable force.
While forging ahead in the realm of technology and speed, however, it is important to not lose sight of the benefits, and wondrous expansiveness that the world of good old literature offers us.
Unlike the media of the modern era, reading a novel requires continuity, investment, and intensive concentration of one’s imagination.
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These are skills that are vitally important to acquire early in life to facilitate success in both education and in turn the working world.
As was reported in an article from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, “One in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers.”
Reading is an activity that is being seen more and more as an arduous task, done only when required by school, and not the choice of many children when it comes to spending their leisure time.
Children’s dislike of intensive or in-depth reading is indicative of a larger problem: lack of willingness or enjoyment in investing hard, determined effort to achieve a long-term goal.
The instant gratification that is so easy and so prevalent in the digital age makes the prospect of investing a week or more reading a book seem like a daunting task, especially when one can just wait for the movie in the case of almost any book that gains some sort of renown.
It has been argued that the reading of novels is being replaced without detriment by reading on the Internet.
However, this is simply untrue according to a New York Times article by Rich Motoko that reported, “The only kind of reading that related to higher academic performance was frequent novel reading, which predicted better grades in English class and higher overall grade point averages.”
Internet reading often entails little or no adherence to a plot line, not to mention being fraught with spelling and grammatical errors.
Reading a novel requires imagination and insight as well as foreshadowing and attention to detail that one simply will not find in an online article or a television show.
As most people who read know, a movie rarely ever touches the depth and quality of a novel, and simply serves as a replacement for the pictures that are taken out after one passes the third grade reading level.
Movies are too often the contracted, edited, commercialized version of books that are easy to disseminate and profit from.
Are they enjoyable? In many cases, undeniably. Are they a suitable replacement for books? Absolutely not.
Encouragement for children to read cannot simply come from their educators however, but must also be a treasured value of home life.
This is difficult in many situations because some parents do not enjoy reading or simply don’t have time for it.
This should not prevent them from encouraging the habit in their children.
Reading is a skill that takes practice and is valued in our society, as is evidenced by the emphasis on reading comprehension by both employers and educators.
Intensive reading helps children appreciate the value of putting in effort to learn or simply enjoy themselves.
The satisfaction one gets from reaching that last page of a novel cannot be compared to finishing a movie or show that did all the work for you, whether you enjoyed the book or not.
Part of the problem likely lies in the stigma surrounding the enjoyment of reading books in early childhood in a society that rewards the athlete over the academic in the realm of “cool” at every turn.
In reality the amount of people who will ever use athletics in their adult or professional lives is remarkably slim, and those who will use reading, well, that includes just about everyone.
So next time you see that kid with his nose in a book waiting for the bus, just remember that he is bettering himself while exploring hearts, minds, and worlds beyond his means. Everyone else is just waiting.
Colm Craig can be contacted at