July 11, 2013

Tell me a story, tablet!: The future of reading for fun


“What’s a book?” – Adorable children everywhere

You know that thing you did as a kid, where you went to the library, picked up some books with exciting covers, brought them home, and had a parent read them aloud? That doesn’t happen so often these days, according to a report presented at the Children’s Media Conference last week in the UK.

As more schools emphasize reading as a skill to be mastered, fewer children read for fun. Most parents read to their children before they enter kindergarten, but by the final year of primary school only 2% keep up the habit. “Once children can read competently, parents tend to step back, and this usually happens at the age of seven or eight,” wrote Maggie Brown in the Guardian.

When asked about the decline in reading for pleasure, most teachers faulted the government’s educational policies:

They believe that a “straitjacket” of regimented schooling is squeezing young people’s ability to read more widely. Two-thirds of teachers polled said they lacked time in the school day to introduce a variety of books and that this was a “major barrier to being able to develop a level of reading”. Teachers also cited as contributory factors the reduction in the number of school librarians, who could put interesting books before children, and the rise in “screen time”, diverting children from reading to playing games.

Another report presented at the conference declared, “Wrapping a cheap tablet in a washable surround is where children’s products are going.” The report predicted that children will increasingly access books on tablets, choosing to either read the tale themselves or have the tablet read it to them. “Touch-screen phones and tablets are intuitive to children,” the report stated.

Maybe such intuitive technology will lead to an upswing in children reading for fun? I don’t believe any tablet could beat my dad doing Mrs. Joe’s voice when he read Great Expectations aloud to me and my little sister—but for the sake of the publishing industry, I hope I’m wrong.


Abigail Grace Murdy is a former Melville House intern.