“I don’t like to read.” “Reading is boring.” Reading is old school.” “Reading takes too much time.” “I’d rather watch the movie.” I’m sure many of us have heard either these lines or something similar when attempting to encourage a reluctant reader to read. Oftentimes we will hear this from children; however, there is a large number of adults who express the same sentiments. This could be problematic for us as a country because reading is the foundation for learning. As self-service automation becomes more and more a part of our daily lives, the more critical the ability to read and process information quickly becomes. The only way to build our reading and comprehension skills is through the practice of reading and for our reluctant or non-readers, they are not getting this practice.
A study conducted by the Pew Research Center in March of 2018 titled Who Doesn’t Read Books in America found that about a quarter of American adults (24%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form. I’m sure we can safely make the leap that those who say they haven’t read a book in the past year are those who do not find reading to be their activity of choice.
So, how do convince reluctant or non-readers that it really is in their best interest to read more? How do we help this segment of the population understand how critical reading is to everything we do today? How do we encourage those who would rather watch paint dry than reading, pick up a book and read it?
The good news is, everyone has at least one interest and is likely to have several. There is no topic that has not been written about either in a book or article form. In fact, there has not been a better time in our history in terms of accessing information. It is literally at our fingertips. For example, I love aviation and the thought of becoming a pilot and while I have not obtained my pilot’s license yet, I continuously read books, blogs, and articles that I would read if I were an actual pilot. Aviation and piloting an aircraft interests me, so reading about it is not boring or arduous. I share this story to say that the first step is to get the reluctant reader to choose reading material about a subject that he/she is passionate about. Allow the reluctant reader to self-choose and not be forced, assigned or mandated to read something that he/she is not interested in. Internet search engines have done wonders for being able to read about any topic under the sun. Believe it or not, our mindsets have a lot to do with how we view reading. Why not make reading fun? Enjoyable?
Secondly, we must prioritize our time to include some time for reading each day. Reluctant readers can start with maybe ten minutes a day and work their way up to thirty and then sixty. The same way avid television watchers can sit and watch television for hours at a time, avid readers read many books for hours at a time. If you are an avid television watcher, would it be possible to trade one of the T.V. hours for reading about something you are passionate about or would like to know more about? Think about the long-term benefits of learning something new or increasing your vocabulary or bolstering your comprehension skills. Reading feeds into lifelong learning.
This is for the teachers and parents who may be reading this; Never assign reading as a punishment. By assigning reading as a punishment, we are sending the wrong message and signal. We do not want anyone to associate something negative (punishment is negative) with something we would like to see more of, as in this case, reading.
Once the reluctant reader has begun to see reading as something that is enjoyable, he/she should use down times such as waiting for appointments, relaxation after work, etc., on airplanes, trains, and buses as opportunities to get some reading in. Like anything else, reading can and must become a positive habit.
One final step for the reluctant or non-reader to do is to share what he/she has read either in conversation or instruction. It is said that the best way to learn something is to teach it, and can you imagine how proud a reluctant reader would be of him/herself after having taught someone else about a subject that he/she read about? Just as we get excited and tell others about how great a movie is, we must also get excited and tell others how great a book or article is. We must generate the same type of excitement that we do for movies, concerts athletic events and other entertainment about books.
In conclusion, I quote the What We Do and Why section from the Reading Is Fundamental website (www.rif.org) to help us better understand why this article matters:
There is a significant and cyclical literacy crisis facing America today and it begins with our children. Twenty-five million children in the U.S. cannot read proficiently.* RIF believes that together we can make a real difference and set our children on a path of growth and opportunity.
While 76% is a good number, I believe we can do even better. 76% is mediocre and mediocrity ought not to have its place in the United States of America. It is up to us who are in the 76% to encourage the 24%. We must all be lifelong learners and that begins by being lifelong readers.