20% of Kids Think Books Are “Embarrassing”

A new survey sponsored by the National Literacy Trust uncovered some interesting facts about kids’ relationships with books: while 50 percent of kids say that they “enjoy reading very much or quite a lot,” only 30 percent of kids read daily outside of school, and nearly 20 percent say that they would be embarrassed if a friend or classmate were to see them reading a book on their own time (National Literacy Trust).

This study shows that, while many kids enjoy reading, it is being pushed aside in favor of other activities. 54 percent of kids say that they prefer watching TV to reading. While this percentage may actually be lower than expected, it indicates that activities involving technology such as TV, video games and time on the computer can be more enjoyable and more socially acceptable than sitting down with a book.

How to foster a culture of reading

What can you do to encourage your kids to read at home? The most important thing for parents to do is to set a good example. If your kids see you regularly turn off the TV in order to enjoy a book in the evening, they are likely to follow suit. Tell your kids about the book you are reading, even if it is just a one-sentence description, and then ask them about their current book to keep the conversation going.

Make reading a family activity. Story time is great for younger kids, and reading aloud can be enjoyable for the whole family even as your kids grow older. If they are too impatient to listen to read-alouds and would rather read books to themselves, cuddle up on the couch or sit quietly in the same room together as you read. The sense of comfort that comes with being with you is enough to keep them coming back for more.

Read about an interesting subject together. If you have a reluctant reader who loves trains, seek out some easy-read nonfiction books with plenty of pictures of steam engines and cabooses. Then check out an adult book on the same subject for yourself. Your train lover will be thrilled that you can learn together.

Make books cool again!

Our culture celebrates technological advances. Remember those eye-popping iPod commercials that featured dancing silhouettes? The media focuses on new releases from Apple, e-readers and exciting video games so much that it’s no wonder books have fallen into the “uncool” category. And unless TV networks start running regular commercials for the next hot book series, it is up to parents and teachers to make books cool again.

Talk to your kids about how books have changed the world — starting with the Bible and working right up to “The Hunger Games.” Ask them to think about what their lives would be like if nobody could read or write. While computers certainly have changed our lives over the past fifty years, books have had even more of an influence on the shape of our world today!

Encourage your kids to think about which books and characters have affected them the most. Was there a time when they were sad and a funny scene in a book made them feel better? Or was there a day that was boring until they picked up their favorite Harry Potter book and were instantly transported to Hogwarts?

Teach them about Banned Books Week. Some books are so powerful and controversial that they have been banned from school and public libraries. This aspect of literacy may appeal to kids who rebel against authority. Give them a list of banned books and encourage them to read their way through.

Books still matter

Even in the 21st century, books are not obsolete. They remain one of the most accessible, affordable tools for education and entertainment. Our goal should be to foster a strong culture of reading amongst kids and to teach them that books are one of humankind’s most important inventions, so that no one is ever embarrassed or ashamed to be caught with a book in his or her hands.


Related stories:

How the E-Book Ruling Will Affect the Way We Read

Are e-Readers Really Green?

Teaching Feminism: Summer Reading, Girls Vs. Boys


Photo: MIKI Yoshihito/flickr

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Debbi Ryan
Deb Ryan2 years ago

If kids see Mom with within reach they'll do the same (mostly!) 4 out of 6 in my house

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

GREAT article. who can't love books?!?

Winn Adams
Winn Adams3 years ago

Books are way better than iPads.

Marianne B.
MARIA B.3 years ago

You are correct in saying technology has replaced reading a book. Too bad for this generation.

Nicola Pole
Erica S.3 years ago

Well, I'm only 19 and I've never cared if people see me reading. I've read a lot of Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Anthony Horowitz, etc., on my own time. I still love video games and the internet, but I'm going to read if I feel like it. I prefer to read when I'm alone, but just to avoid distractions.

Marie W.
Marie W.3 years ago

More books; fewer ipads.

Maureen Hawkins
Maureen Hawkins3 years ago

Books aren't "cool" in a culture of conspicuous consumption because they are cheaper than electronic technology.

Michele V.
Michele V.3 years ago

How things have changed! And not for the better! I rue the time when Fahrenheit 451 becomes a reality and only the select few have the archives of every literary masterpieces ever written in their brain's memory bank and there's no longer any internet (Oh No!!! Lol! How can we go on?) Books should be every child's friend!

Elaine Pischke
Elaine Pischke3 years ago

I come from a family of mostly non-readers (although we did have some children's books in the house that were read to us when we were little) and yet I always loved books. I remember my mom having to kick me out of the house to go play because I preferred to stay inside and read. I understand that fresh air and exercise are also important, I suppose. I always read to my kids, and 2 out of 3 are readers. I don't know what happened with the other. It makes me sad that he does not like to read. My husband and I have a book problem. Seriously, we are overrun with books, no place to put them all, they are in bookcases, boxes, in piles everywhere... but we cannot bear to part with them. I wish I had more time to read. It is one of life's greatest pleasures.

Phillipa W.
Phillipa W.3 years ago

sadly, the issue is not as simple as fostering a love of books. Once they hit school and bullying etc start, then there's not a lot you can do. Like a lot of things, change can be gradual once there's a problem there. And the best you could hope for is that they read at home and while away from those who they'd be embarrassed about reading in front of.