Monday, February 19, 2007

Reading and teens

Hi and welcome to the Branches of Life BlogZine. I'm honored to be invited to join this group of talented writers.

I know I'm getting a jump on March's topic, but I thought I'd share my own experience with a teen son--and reading. As a child, Nick was a voracious reader. He loved mythology, especially (this is common with boys--I certainly did), but read all sorts of stories. His interests outside of reading were games (he liked Magic, WarHammer, etc.) and hanging with friends. Sometime in his mid-teen years, though, he stopped reading. It wasn't sudden and it wasn't as if he didn't like to read, it was more that he only had so much time and reading just didn't make the list--always tomorrow. Unfortunately, I don't think Nick is alone. I think we're raising a generation of teens who think of reading as something that the older, slower generation did.

Part of the 'problem' is probably multitasking. A key element in reading is the way a story engrosses, captivates, captures, and immerses the reader. If you're reading a good book, you can't be watching TV, text-messaging with your friends, or talking on the phone.

Because I'm a writer, I worry about this. Because much of my writing deals with the future, I have to consider what it means to live in a world where reading is like Bridge or shuffleboard--something reserved for the old and gradually dying off.

I'd love to hear your opinions. Is reading an elitist activity that society is wise to put behind it?

Rob Preece
Author and Publisher,


Christina said...

I agree. However, do you think that perhaps ebooks will give the opportunity for these technology based kids another way to read - maybe encourage reading?

Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said...

You know, Chris, I never thought about this. Kids are always on the computer and if an interactive book can capture their imagination then perhaps that's the direction some parents can take.

Lea Schizas

Susan Stephenson said...

I'm the parent of a teen (just, he's 19). When Rob said "multitasking", my lightbulb came on because Tim has two computer screens, often one is split, a movie on another screen, and is listening to music as well.He was a Magic/Warhammer kid and retains his love of fantasy, but won't extend it to the many fantasy books my husband and I own. He will read RASalvatore, and series books, like Forgotten Realms.

When he reads those books, he leaves all the screens and goes to a comfy chair and immerses himself.

He also reads graphic novels and manga. The old-fashioned part of me doesn't really see those as "books", I guess the same way my mum didn't like me reading comics! But I'm pleased about any diversion that pulls him away from a screen.

Interestingly, Tim has no interest in ebooks. He will often download "comics" but will only use the computer to locate print books. The sorts of books he reads are quite expensive to buy ( eg, Transmetropolitan will set him back over $50)but he will read them over and over again.

Tim does a lot of reading online, hours each day when he's home. I must ask him why he doesn't consider ebooks and a reader.

Christina said...

Well, Susan - comics may not be considered 'classic' literature, but he IS reading.
I don't have a teen (my daughter is only 8 - and has an appetite for fantasy novels), but if she went for the quick fix of comics, I would still be happy. Granted NOT as happy as if she picked up Little Women or War and Peace, but . . .
Lea - I know the generation coming up (yeah, I sound like an old lady) is very tech oriented. The good old fashioned book in paper is SO outdated. I think if we, as parents, learn what is available out there - we can keep our kids reading.

BooksForABuck said...

Thanks for all the comments, guys.
Lea, I do think eBooks are a way of reaching out. Especially as we make it easier for eBooks to be read on devices they actually use--like iPods. My son would probably read if he could get books on his Creative Zen, but right now, Creative doesn't support that.
And yes, comics do count--and manga, but only sort of. They don't provide the scope for imagination or immersion that traditional books do. Still, I encourage them as a path. As always, it's the journey not the destination that matters.

Rob Preece