Kids still read?

“The iPad won’t load!”

“Where’s the Kindle charger?”

“If she’s on her Chrome Book, what can I do?!”

Holy Electronics, Batman. I’m pretty sure when I was growing up we could have gone days without electricity and not have noticed. Yet these days if our internet connection is slow, we can’t cope. And yes, I’m including the adults, i.e. myself, in this sweeping generalization.

The overwhelming presence of technology in our lives makes me long for simplicity and wonder what complicated future awaits our children. Will they become a generation that knows nothing of fairy tales and folklore, unable to make obscure references to literature? Will they all eventually run into each other on foot or in cars because they are staring at some “smart device” while moving forward? Will the robots finally rise up and conquer us?

Ok, the last one might be a stretch (but not impossible – stay alert!), but I have real concerns about what technology means for the future of our kids. I bought a super cool book hoping to expose my kiddos to things I learned in school. It’s called The New First Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Your Child Needs to Know and it has sections for proverbs, literature, world history, etc. I want them to just sit down and read it so when they come across an obscure reference, they know what it is. But, you know, being forced to read something by your mom doesn’t have quite the same impact as something you choose to read yourself.

My oldest daughter loves to read — in fact she is obsessed with reading — but the way other parents react to that information makes me feel like that isn’t the norm. To hear other parents talk sometimes, it sounds like kids just don’t read anymore and that’s not comforting information. Don’t we believe the children are our future?

Well after this weekend, I have hope that they are — and that their parents have been understating their interests.

On Sunday we went to see Rick Riordan as part of his book tour for his new Magnus Chase series (no this is not a sponsored post — I’m just a mom who took her daughter because I’m cool like that). The event was put on by the Houston book store Blue Willow Bookshop, but was so large they had to have it at a high school auditorium. There were hundreds of people in attendance, the majority of whom were tweens and teens. Yes: kids. Literally lining up to see an author. Of BOOKS.

Excited to see #RickRiordan today! #Houston #magnuschase @bluewillowbooks #norseamericantour

A photo posted by Candy (@candyovercaffed) on

 

When “Uncle Rick” came out onstage, the audience went nuts. The young crowd’s reaction was as big as the crowd had to Jimmy Fallon when I was in the audience for The Tonight Show. And, like Jimmy Fallon, Mr. Riordan really knows how to connect to his audience.

He shared how he started writing books and what inspired him to write the incredibly popular Percy Jackson series. He also shared more about his future projects — it was at that point that I though the kids were going to faint. You remember how Oprah’s audience reacted when she gifted them with something? It was something like that. Only all that they’d been gifted with was a promise of a continued story. That their favorite characters would have new adventures and that new characters would be coming for them to fall in love with, too.

rick-riordan-houston

The exuberance in the auditorium was contagious. I’ve never read any of Mr. Riordan’s books, yet even I was excited about the future books. How could I not be? My 9 year-old daughter was thrilled. She couldn’t help but quietly try to explain to me all the little inside jokes and references being made. It was that thing where you love something so much you want everyone else to love it too.

I walked away proud. I want my children to love reading. I want ALL children to love reading. Sometimes all it takes is the right book, other times it takes the right example. Because my 9 year-old loves reading so much, my 5 year-old feels like it is an absolutely acceptable way to spend her time. She isn’t obsessed like her big sister but it’s something she gets excited about, especially on library day. If a “new” book or other gimmick gets her excited about reading, so be it.

As for my 9 year-old, I may have to find a way to make more money to fund her book habit, especially knowing there will be THREE new Rick Riordan books next year. Besides supporting her habit, I also make sure I read in front of my kids so it’s always normal for them.

Another thing we as parents can do to encourage young readers is support reading programs and events in our schools and community. I was just made aware of a super cool event where the goal is to try to break the Guinness World Record for the number of children read to within a 24-hour period. (If you are in the Houston area, look at the volunteer opportunities here to see if your school is participating.) Right now I’m trying to get my kids’ school involved because it’s such a fun idea, but if I can’t I know there are other ways to encourage reading. My 4th grader found her competitive side while accumulating points with her school’s Accelerated Reader (AR) program. She’s trying to get the most points in her grade. So far, she’s the leader!

Whatever attitude your kiddos have about books, don’t be discouraged if he or she isn’t a reader right now; Rick Riordan said he didn’t become a reader until he was a middle schooler and discovered The Lord of The Rings. Don’t stop believing the right book is out there for you or your child. After all, who doesn’t like a good story?