Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kindles for Kids: will they read more?

Some kids love to read. Some kids hate it. My two teenage sons fall somewhere in between. Electronics, on the other hand, engage them more than a book ever could.

Give them the internet, their iPods, and video games, and they are as alert as a hungry fox eyeing its prey, but give them a novel, especially one that’s been assigned to them at school, and they suddenly become weary like they’ve just had a long, hard day.

The fact is boys are generally less avid readers than girls, particularly when it comes to literature. This is not a good thing and it definitely will not help them get into university or college.

According to a study on Canadian Adolescent Boys and Literacy “Boys are often disadvantaged in academic literacy as a result of current curricular emphases, teacher text and topic choices, and lack of availability and acceptability of texts that match their interests...they don’t like to read, some don’t read very well, and a growing percentage of boys are “failing” at school.”

How can educators and parents encourage boys to read more books? Providing them with more gender appropriate choices definitely helps as does letting them make their own selections.

But will boys go to the library or a book store and sift through various titles before they find one that appeals to them? Not likely. Would they peruse the choices available on an electronic reader? Much more likely, I think. Many of the books are free and some new titles cost less than $5.

Not everyone can afford an eReader. And I’m sure it would not be at the top of a teenager’s Christmas wish list. Considering how quick parents are to fork out Christmas funds on other electronic gadgets and video games (the new Call of Duty game for Xbox costs over $70, including tax), would it not be expedient for them to make the extra $70 investment in a device that might inspire reading rather than raging in a war game?

Some people may not agree. The novelty will wear off and the teen will end up losing it, misplacing it, or breaking it, objectors might say. But cell phones and iPods are more likely to meet such a fate.

A skeptic could also argue that kids who don’t read books will not start to read now simply because they have a new way to do it. I’d argue that with over 750,000 books in the electronic library, even a stubborn non-reading teenage boy would find something of interest.

Almost everyone would prefer to have an iPad. You can download books as well as use the internet, watch YouTube videos, TV shows, and podcasts. Given a choice between the various applications, we can guess where a boy’s attention would be directed. And the price—almost $800 can be a deterrent in itself.

Back to the eReader. The price of the Amazon Kindle has already come down from last year’s US $189 to $139 while its Canadian counterpart, the Kobo, sells for CAN $149. The Sony Pocket Reader, another alternative, but more pricey, costs CAN $179.

I asked two of my fourteen-year-old's friends when they last read a book outside of school. One said a few years ago, the other said in the summer. (To be fair, they were all playing scrabble when I asked them this.) Would they read more if they had an electronic reader? They both said yes...they think so.

Teachers may be restricted by the curriculum, but if parents are pro-active and make reading choices more accessible to their kids, perhaps it will show up in the grades. And who knows, before long, we may see eReaders in the classroom (with text books costing $100 each, the thought is not a huge stretch).

If it takes a Kindle to kindle an interest in reading, I say, forget those video games or latest gadgets and invest in an eReader for your son. By the way, I’m sure the girls would be happy to receive one too.

1 comment:

  1. Carla, you've raised some good points. Both of my daughters are big readers, but my youngest absolutely loved reading the free classics she got on her iPod. She's now reading Frankenstein, a book which has been on my shelf since before she was born. She wasn't interested in it until she got the free app!