Children who read regularly for pleasure, who are avid and self-directed readers, are the holy grail for parents and educators. Reading for pleasure has considerable current and future benefits: Recreational readers tend to have higher academic achievement and greater economic success, and even display more civic-mindedness.But recreational reading is on the decline. According to a National Endowment for the Arts report based on longitudinal data from a series of large, national surveys, the rate at which teens voluntarily read for pleasure has declined by 50 percent over the last 20 years. Reading now competes for children’s time with many other alluring activities, including television, social media, and video games. Most leisure time is now spent in front of a screen.
To ensure that kids are spending at least some time every day reading, classrooms across the country have instituted student reading logs, which typically require kids to read for a certain amount of time—about 20 minutes—each night at home and then record the book title and number of pages read. In some cases, parents must also sign this log before their child turns it in to the teacher.
As the rest of the article explains, making a chore out of reading will only lead to decreased motivation for free reading, which only makes the problem worse.
How to fix it? Well, the easiest way is to start young. Limit screen time. That's actually very important. Not just the time they spend sucking screen but also what kind of games they're allowed to play. I don't let mine play loud pointless games. They are allowed to play strategy games (chess, Plants vs. Zombies), and word puzzle games like hangman. And they only rarely get devices to play with anyway. That's because I can actually see IQ points leaving their skulls when they play idiotic games with the friends who always have ipads to play as they see fit for any length of time.
More important even then not abandoning your babies to ipad-induced mental rot? Read to them. Give them big baby-proof books to play with. Read books yourself. And continue reading to them as they get older. All my kids devour books for fun (yep, I've got three holy grails), and they still enjoy being read to.
Like with so much in parenting, if you want your kids to do something, you have to devote time and energy to it and lead by example. If you're always sucking screen yourself, and if you throw the phone at the toddler to keep him from screaming, you are not going to be happy with the results. Unless you're trying to raise zombies, I mean...