Hey cHEwY gum gums!

Yesterday, I went to PittWater High to pump up their students to read! As a NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge Ambassador, I presented medals to two students who completed the whole 9-year challenge. It is a mighty feat and achievement, especially when it is up to the students to log in their own books in high school. The teacher-librarian at PittWater High identified any students who have completed the whole 6 years of the challenge in Primary School, and gently pushes them to continue. But it is still a struggle.

I’ve been to so many high schools where they try so hard to get Year 7 kids to read, but the damage may already have been done in Grade 6. Primary school kids who devour every book, start petering off in late Grade 6. And then they spend the whole Summer holidays not visiting their public library. Then it’s even harder for them to visit their school library when they are not forced to borrow a book every fortnight…

Why do so many teens drop off reading? One librarian assistant who has two kids in Grades 6 and 7, says none of their friends read. They don’t want to continue doing PRC in high school because they’ll be the only one and they’ll stand out. The social stigma of reading is probably the number one reason why teens don’t read, or if they do, it’s in secret. Yes, bookworms still exist in high school, but it’s still a niche.

So what did I say to the high school kids yesterday? I told them the usual things, books are the best ways to get ideas for stories. They can change you, mould you, make you a better person. You empathise with people from different walks of life. Yes, it is a borderline-lecture but it’s not a guilt trip. Reading levels up your wisdom and knowledge. It’s a given.

I told them that if they dropped off reading, they can always pick it up again. Books will always be around. I acknowledged that I wasn’t reading as much in Grades 8 to 10. I borrowed less books. Apart from John Marsden’s Tomorrow When The War Began series and Catherine Jinks books, I can’t remember what I read back then. Reading is supposed to be a lifelong thing anyway. One of my favourite responses to parents who worry that their kids don’t read is if they read themselves. If they think reading books is just a school thing, it will stay that way. I challenged them to read 10 books in a year haha.

I know friends who have never picked up a book since they left high school. Others started the habit recently after a decade in the wilderness. That’s okay. Somebody’s golden reading phase may be when in their 60s or 70s.

I ended my speech with this.

“But I can promise you that if you choose a book about a subject that you enjoy, you will enjoy reading. It sounds simple because it is.”

If a few students ventured into their library and picked up a book, that would be nice. But if their friends talked about me and reading, well, that’s even better. Because the battle for reading and teens begins with the banter and talk about books. The reading thing will come.

So how do you get teens to read? Let me know 🙂

O.W