Not on my Watch!
By Guest Blogger: Max Elliot Anderson
You might say that I’ve become something of an expert in understanding why many children don’t enjoy reading. Eleven years ago, I began a research project into why I hadn’t enjoyed reading, even into my adult life. Actually, I became an expert long before looking into this problem. That’s because I grew up hating to read. In my family of seven children, I was the only one to suffer as a struggling, reluctant reader. But in a family of that size, it was easy for me to hide it and others not to notice.
The irony in all of this is that my father was the author of over 70 books during his lifetime, and I never read any of them growing up.
I was far more interested in doing things; not just reading about them. I noticed that if someone told me how to do something, or showed me once or twice, I could do it. But give me an instruction book, or technical manual, and I was lost. I was easily distracted (I still am). If there was noise around, I found it hard to concentrate. Imagine that in a house of six other brothers and sisters, two parents, and a dog.
My dad headed a Christian film production studio. This was a perfect place for a kid like me to hang around and watch. I was attracted to visual communication, but not the printed page. You probably know others with the same problem.
So, over several weeks, I went to bookstores and the library to research hundreds of books written for children. Here’s what I found.
Many books were printed on dull-looking, brownish paper.
Most of the books were obviously written primarily to attract girls as readers.
Books had large blocks of words, making it easy to get lost on a page.
There were too many details and descriptions, in my opinion.
Many books didn’t grab and hold my attention on the first page.
Boys books tended to have dark or evil characters, plots, and settings.
I paid particular attention to some of the nationally award winning books. Most seemed too adult oriented and contained vocabulary kid wouldn’t get. I believe there’s something to be said about reading for pure pleasure and enjoyment, not simply to put another notch on the reading chart. I decided I wanted books that were fast moving, exciting, lots of humor, and with shorter paragraphs and sentences.
Years ago it was the adventure and mystery stories that really started kids down the road to reading for pleasure and entertainment. Serious reading material came later. As a result, the last generation produced more readers than the present. Parents and grandparents, we have to change that, and fast, because our children’s success in life depends on it.
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