When I grew up it was the era of the rise of the consoles. Nintendo changed the market and when Sega began the console war it changed many a living room. The last three decades television program choices have dramatically increased and with streaming like Netflix making things available at the touch of a button it’s sometimes hard to get away. I think most of us will have binged a serie or two at one point in our lives right now… but where does that leave reading?
I ask myself this question sometimes, both for myself as well as what I think is best for my kids. Doing a little bit of internet research will give a wealth of information about the benefits of reading books and how TV has a negative impact on a (developing) brain. My own reading had slumped heavily in the last few years, while my gamer hobby has always stayed strongly in my top 3 of passing free time. Yet, I always thought it something I missed where I contemplated about it, even if the tv or gaming console often won in the end. I think I was lucky to have teachers in school that were willing to let students choose their reading books from a vast array of fiction. It is where my world of reading opened up to S&F with books like This Perfect Day and a Brave New World. It lay the foundation of the fantasy worlds I now gladly add my own stories to. But life was busy and watching tv always seemed like the easier choice to make.
If we look at reading in every day life, we do read a lot. Our world is turning into a constant information stream. Sometimes a bit TOO much. But at the same time we see this information come toward us in continuous smaller pieces. Tweets, pictures, chat messages. All snippets, adjusted for short attention spans, which seems to be heavily present in many of the teens and tweens. Maybe it is a sign of the times and not a problem at all, but I can’t stop wondering if such people are not missing out.
What turned things around for me this year (after being in a multi-year reading slump), was technology strangely enough. I bought an e-reader, even though I preferred to read paper books to begin with. It turned out well. It gave me access to a great many books I wouldn’t come across when browsing the book stores and suddenly I found myself reading in the backyard (enjoying the spring/summer sun) for at least 30 minutes every day as a (lunch)break from my work-at-home situation (thanks covid…). I was glad to see my increased reading immediately rubbed off on my daughter, who started devouring her own books at high speed. My son (the origami addict) was less impacted (but to be fair… being 6, he couldn’t really fully read yet :P), but is getting there now too. Fast for his age he has just started to read and is picking it up quicker then I suspected. I do think that for him it is still a case of finding the right books before he really takes off, but I have no doubt he will find his interest somewhere down the line as well. And it doesn’t even have to be fantasy books (though I wouldn’t be surprised if that turns out the case), as long as they have a decent interest in reading a book here and there, I’ll be happy for them. I think this type of medium is able to bring them a lot of joy one can’t find anywhere else. It stimulates their own fantasy and creativity and hopefully gives their own thoughts enough space to process and think about things, as it is slower information to absorb.
Now with winter on the way, the cold outside and shorter days it is a bit more difficult to grab my book instead of check out the next Star Trek or The Expanse, but I’m already looking forward again to the spring, where I can soak in some much needed vitamin D in the sun and travel into the next undiscovered world on the pages of a book.
How do you “other” people out there keep yourselves, or your children, engaged with reading? Do you have a special ritual, or place in the house where you like to read? Do you read in bed before going to sleep? Or are you simply a person that could care less about tv or gaming and buries their nose in books all the time? Hit me up on one of the social platforms if you wish to share your thoughts, or leave a comment below.
– A.J. Norfield