Are children being cheated of books today?

Writing about all those childhood memories of books and searching for them on Amazon made me realize how lucky I was as a child. When I was looking for The Boxcar Children series I couldn’t remember exactly what it was called. The word “boxcar” just wouldn’t come to me. So I tried a bunch of different searches. I tried “train children,” “box children,” “sidecar children,” and a couple of others until it finally came to me. What bothered me was when I searched for “box children” and Harry Potter came up for about the first 70 search results.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter. What bothered me was realizing that the Harry Potter series may well be one of the only series young children today read. If their parents aren’t big readers and don’t encourage reading at home, most children likely will only read when it’s the “in” thing to do (aka there’s a media circus surrounding the book). And that thought just made me really sad. I’d be so bummed if my children, or even my younger brother and sister (ages 8 and 13) missed out on the books I loved as a kid. Luckily they won’t miss out because the books on their shelves are hand-me-downs from all of us older kids (unless of course we stole them when we moved out, which I totally did with my Roald Dahl books).

I don’t know, I don’t have kids so maybe I’m over-exaggerating. Maybe kids read as much today as I did when I was younger. Maybe all this talk in the media about children reading less today is just a bunch of hype. I guess I won’t know until I have children of my own. I’m just saying that the exercise yesterday really got me thinking. What do you think? Am I totally off base?

Published in: on May 14, 2008 at 4:38 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I don’t have kids so I can’t say for certain, but any kid that ONLY reads Harry Potter isn’t really into reading anyway and wouldn’t be more into reading if they read The Boxcar Children or Nancy Drew or The Hobbit.

    Besides, maybe kids will miss out on books you enjoyed, but that’s because there’s a TON of good books coming out all the time! And so it goes. It doesn’t have to do so much with media hype as much as it has to do with so little time, so many books. Just my opinion. 😀

  2. Trish: I was just talking with the “in-laws” tonight about famous authors and I realized how many books I missed out on as a kid. I definitely have to agree with your “so many books, so little time” theory. I read A TON as a kid and I still missed tons of books that other people were enjoying at the same time.

  3. I read a ton as a kid but haven’t read a lot that stuff that others read as a kid. I was just reading somewhere that sales for YA was up 25%, more than adult fiction. I do think that HP made reading cool again and coxed some reluctant readers out of the woodwork although some kids don’t read at all.

  4. Your post reminded me of a story from the New York Times Book Review about how Harry Potter finally fell off their Best-Sellers lists for the first time in about 10 years. It’s linked on my blog if you want to read it.

    I agree, I hope that kids are reading outside Harry Potter, and hope that Harry Potter is inspiring them to read more. My brother wasn’t a big reader, but after Harry Potter he moved on to the Inheritance Trilogy, along with some other fantasy, and is now older and into adventure stories. So, I guess I hope the Harry Potter phenomenon will do that for other kids too.


  5. I was a big reader as a child, my sister and my husband (from the same generation) were not. I have two daughters- one loves to read, the other has to be almost forced to sit down as I set the timer for 15 minutes so she can complete her “read for 15 minutes daily” homework. I think kids today have many more distractions than kids from 15 or 20 years ago- when I was a kid there were the network tv stations and nothing else- now we have something like 800 stations on the Dish Network. You don’t have to wait for Sun. morning to watch cartoons, you can have them 24/7. And with Wii and Nintendo DS and iPods and dvd’s, etc– there’s a lot of stuff competing for a child’s time and attention. Sadly, reading suffers. I don’t care if a kid reads Harry Potter or Little Women so long as he/she is reading something.

  6. Lisa: You make a great point. I guess I shouldn’t be concerned so much with WHAT children are reading. If they’re reading it’s a lot better than some of the other things they could be doing. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

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