Last week, my wonderful children’s literature friend Jules, of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, alerted me to a recent article in The Guardian called Modern life means children missing out on the pleasures of a good book.
The most alarming part of the article comes right in the second paragraph that reads,
“Research presented to the Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield last week found that, while parents read to pre-schoolers, this later tails off, and by the final year of primary school only around 2% read to their children every day. Once children can read competently, parents tend to step back, and this usually happens at the age of seven or eight.”
The article goes on to describe a similar decrease in time spent reading aloud in the classroom as teachers suffer from the pressure of standardized testing.
What I find almost the most alarming about all of this is the fact that I almost fell prisoner to the same time demands of which we all complain. Over the winter, I stopped reading to both girls together, not having time, or so I perceived, to find a book that would appeal to both Katherine and Caroline. I was still reading to Katherine but only at bed time and I had completely let my reading to Caroline go. Fortunately, we were saved by the Penderwicks and I promise to not let this slip up happen again. And then I also stopped reading picture books to either of the girls. Katherine was loving the ‘big girl’ status of chapter books so I was letting her have at it. And then one trip to the library, a big canvas bag filled with books and two happy girls reminded me of how important picture books are to all children and frankly many adults.
I worry now about the future of the read aloud in family life. Clearly this article from The Guardian and my own actions support my fear. I have read Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook more than once and did a legitimate happy dance when the latest edition arrived in the mail last week. I have read and given as gifts Mem Fox’s Reading Magic and Daniel Pennac’s Rights of a Reader. I consider myself a passionate reader and yet I had run out of time to read aloud.
I know my girls are more than happy with our renewed focus on reading aloud and remembering our picture books. Here’s to continuing on, no matter how busy we get…