Today, the youth reads less frequently than any previous generation. Research aside, we’ve witnessed the change in our homes. Many young boys and girls don’t necessarily enjoy reading books, paperbacks or e-books, and prefer scrolling through phones. Well, there is a lot of good content available on the world wide web, which does deserve their attention. We can all agree to that; after all, we too devour words via screens. As grown-ups, of course, the dwindling interest of the youth towards reading is a cause of worry and discussion. As the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature opens today, we take the concern to the local and international participating authors. Read on, the suggestions offered by them could help us too.
We begin by putting forward the question to local author Annabel Kantaria, a mother of two tech-savvy kids. “I’d say get down to their level. This might sound obvious, but don’t force a certain genre on them just because you think they’ll like it.” Author of books like I Know You, The One That Got Away and more, she suggests that if your kids love gadgets and want to scroll rather than flick pages, get them a Kindle or download Kindle on their iPad and give them books in the formats that they want. “And then there’s always the carrot-and-stick method: only give your kids the WiFi password/screen-time after they’ve achieved a predetermined reading goal,” she shares. Author Thomas Erikson makes a relevant point when he says that social media scrolling parents will probably get social media scrolling children. He confesses that whilst he can’t say what is right or wrong, but if as a parent you want your kids to read more, you need to take away their phones and laptops for at least one evening a week and put a book in their hands. “Maybe be the whole family should read the same book. Afterwards, you could discuss the book around the dinner table. Just imagine the benefits this will get them in school,” adds the author of Surrounded by Psychopaths (and Idiots).
Whilst Thomas feels that only parents can bring about a change, he speaks for the youth when he says, “Young boys and girls are used to being constantly entertained and get the reward instantly, that reading just might bore them. I mean, reading in silence for ten hours until you get the solution? Too long, too slow!” His solution: integrate reading in a way that makes it more accessible for those who are used to finding information on the screen. Andy Fieldhouse, author of Getting Teamwork Right, agrees that the task at hand is tough. As a parent of little children, he shares that working with technology rather than against it is worth considering. “My daughter wants to read books on an app because she can choose them by scrolling to find the ones she wants, give them star ratings, see her progress in minutes and number of books read, the gamification element appeals to her more than reading a paper book,” he says.
Local author Hafsa Lodi speaks our mind when she says that scrolling endlessly through Instagram is a great way to kill brain cells. She offers a way out in the form of reading groups and book clubs (physical/virtual) to promote reading socially. “An interesting merging of the younger, social media-obsessed Gen-Z and traditional book enthusiasts, can be seen in ‘Bookstagram’, the corner of social media dedicated to reading books , whether hard copies or Kindle versions. ‘Bookstagram’ is a whole community on Instagram where book bloggers and readers can share recommendations and curated images of their current reads,” says Lodi, the author of Modesty: A Fashion Paradox.