Inspiring Young Readers in the Digital Age

Lauren Walsh, Head of English

Throughout last week, a silence fell over the last 15 minutes of Period 4. For a few students, this provided a welcome opportunity to indulge in their favourite recreational activity. For others, it gave a much-needed break from the pressures of their numerous assessments. And for some (perhaps even a growing majority), it was an uneasy 15 minutes of attempting to engage in an unfamiliar activity. As we conclude our Book Week celebrations and a week of D.E.A.R (Drop Everything and Read), the importance of inspiring young people to read in the digital age remains an ever-necessary topic for conversation.

There is plenty of research to demonstrate why reading still remains a critical component in the cognitive development of young minds. There is research to prove, for example, that reading print increases comprehension (Ackerman and Goldsmith, 2011), improves young peoples’ capacity for abstract thinking (Kaufman and Flanagan, 2016) and is still the number one way of nurturing creativity (Greenfield, 2009).

It is much harder to find research that suggests reading is unimportant. Or that reading doesn’t contribute to intellectual growth. Or that reading doesn’t promote curiosity.

But to make young people see the importance of reading, lecturing them on the statistics and research will likely make it sound even less appealing. Because both research (Scholastic, 2019) and my own personal experience as a teacher, reveals that the single most important factor in promoting reading is you – parents and caregivers. It may appear, amidst the challenges of trying to provide sound advice to resistant teenagers, that this is far from the reality. However, if you are a reader yourself, making this a regular and valued feature of your family lives will positively impact your daughter’s reading journey.

I am sure that in all of our homes, the digital age has well and truly made its mark. Perhaps it seems easy for the Head of English to lecture on the importance of reading and that this would naturally contribute to my version of child-rearing. Yet, I am only one half of a team. The cultivation of healthy reading habits in my home has required significant negotiation. And while there may have been resistance along the way because of the temptation and proximity of digital devices, the outcome has been well worth it. We are amongst the many families who have not regretted making reading books part of our everyday routine.

There are numerous practical strategies for creating active readers in our girls from co-reading to joining a book club to making a trip to a library. Whatever your path, the significant first step in promoting the importance of reading in the digital age is the willingness to Drop Everything (including all devices) and Read at home – creating a special space and time for you and your daughters to open up their minds and enter into an imaginary world.

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About Lauren Walsh

Lauren Walsh is the Head of English at Kambala. She leads a team of inspiring practitioners and voracious readers.