Reading is Fundamental

I have found a couple of the movies entertaining enough and once spent an evening  leafing through a copy of one of the (larger) books Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that I found in a hotel, but otherwise I have not sipped much from the Harry Potter goblet. But I’ve had some kids of friends who have been OBSESSED with the series over the years. An article in the New York Times questions the assumption that the series has led to more reading  by children.

…As the series draws to a much-lamented close, federal statistics show that the percentage of youngsters who read for fun continues to drop significantly as children get older, at almost exactly the same rate as before Harry Potter came along.

The article quotes poet and NEA chair Dana Gioia:

“The trouble is that one Harry Potter novel every few years is not enough to reverse the decline in reading….Anyone who has children or grandchildren sees the competition for children’s time increasing as they enter adolescence, and the difficulty that reading seems to have to compete effectively,” Mr. Gioia said….

Perhaps it’s not narrative but rather the interweb that kids should be reading?

“If you look at what most people need to read for their occupation, it’s zero narrative,” said Michael L. Kamil, a professor of education at Stanford University. “I don’t want to deny that you should be reading stories and literature. But we’ve overemphasized it,” he said. Instead, children need to learn to read for information, Mr. Kamil said, something they can practice while reading on the Internet, for example.


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