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The Love of Reading Is on Life Support – Can We Save It?

By Karen Spencer March 23, 2023 Lifestyle

One day, while visiting one of our grandchildren, an 8-year-old, I stepped out the back door to locate her. She was perched snuggly up in an oak tree, reading; as if that’s where everyone might choose to spend their afternoon.

I watched the expressions on her face while the sun touched her hair. A breeze came through and seemed to wisp up some fairy dust as she escaped to her world filled with enchantment, dragons, and princesses. That same mystical world where Alice really does have a conversation with a rabbit, Pete spends an entire day with the dragon, and Clara actually is swept off her feet by the nutcracker.

I can’t think of a place I’d rather be than having a front row seat to this great unfolding miracle; a child loving to read.

Having Everything Within Reach

He that loves reading has everything within his reach.

—William Goodwin

Isn’t that what we wish for our children and our grandchildren, for them to have everything within their reach?

The love of reading will give them the advantages, the opportunities, the preparation and the training that will enable them to go out and succeed. Books offer this to our kids and expand their world.

The love of reading opens doors not only for our children but for all of us.

Research shows that regular reading:

  • improves brain connectivity,
  • increases our vocabulary and comprehension,
  • empowers us to empathize with other people,
  • aids in sleep readiness,
  • reduces stress,
  • lowers blood pressure and heart rate,
  • fights depression symptoms,
  • prevents cognitive decline as we age,
  • contributes to a longer life.

Who can argue with the many benefits of reading? No matter what age we are, the love of reading can be a gift offering that stays with us forever.

The Statistics About Reading Habits in Children Are Dismal

And yet, sadly, I continue to hear about the decline in the enjoyment of reading.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 67% of fourth grade students are below proficiency in reading.

Dianna Gioia, chairman of the National Education Association, explains it this way, “As our kids read less, they read less well. And when they read less well, this has very serious consequences, not just to their academic performance, but to their economic performance and ultimately to their ability to connect with a civic life and political life.”

What are we to do with this dismal research?

Neil Postman, an American author, educator, and cultural critic, further warns us of the consequences of the fallout in reading. “A mode of thinking is being lost,” he laments, “We are losing a sort of psychic habit, a logic, a sense of complexity, an ability to spot contradictions and even falsity.”

Postman believes this loss is now being felt in our cultural activities and in our politics, as well as in our children’s SAT scores, and that it could get worse. But of course, such prophecies are delivered in print, so no one pays much heed.

Can We Turn the Table and Leave a Lasting Legacy?

Shall we sit ideally by, silently watching as the reading, the thinking and the heartbeat of our future generations flatline?

Are we really okay with that? Are we satisfied to leave behind a generation of children that don’t love reading?

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way…. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away…

—Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

So then, what will keep us – yes, you and me – from being a moving force that transfuses a love of reading back into the next generation?

I know, I know… there are many things we take notice of that are not as they used to be and, quite frankly, not to our liking. We talk about the ‘good old days’ like our grandparents did. And far be it for us to intrude, right? So we go to our corners, make ourselves smaller and quieter and mind our own business… Far be it for us to put our noses in others’ business!

Well, I say bologna to that! I believe it’s time for those of us who know better to do better. I think we should take a stand!

The Solution? Read to Children

One of the greatest gifts adults can give to their offspring and to their society is to read to children.

—Carl Sagan

There are things we can do to fix this reading ailment, for the betterment of ourselves, the younger generation and the future generations to come. And who better to lead the charge and the challenge than us – those who have benefitted from our love of reading in the past and continue to reap the benefits today.

I want to resurrect this dying trend and breathe life back into what we know equips our children to be active participants in creating a better future world.

I spoke with a children’s librarian, Susan Clark. She, like many others, would love to see us inject our grandkids with our own sense of delight and wonder we receive from reading.

And although you may not have a grandchild yet, or one living nearby; there is a child out there that needs you. Volunteer to make a difference in a child’s life. Check out opportunities to read at libraries, schools, hospitals, book stores or community events.

You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.

—Dr. Suess

As well as sharing some of her thoughts and reading tips, Mrs. Clark also suggested some great book choices. I will share both in future posts.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you love to read? Have you taught your children and/or grandchildren to love books? What do you think is the problem behind kids’ lack of reading habits?

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Libraries in the UK are alive and well despite successive governments reducing annual spending on them. Each year there is a Summer Reading Challenge, this is to encourage children to read during the summer holidays and there are posters, medals, all sorts of things to encourage them. We have a Teen Book Club for the older children which is very popular. Long may it continue. Reading is so important and it opens up worlds which would otherwise remain unknown.


You are so right! I agree, I do think we need to find ways to reward our kids and encourage them to continue reading. Ultimately though it has to be the inner joy they get from reading and not just the prize the receive from doing it.

Jane Coombs

My daughter has firm bedtimes for her kids. They are encouraged to read as long as they want.


I love this! I think it goes along with another comment I received and that was that reading takes time and now a day so many of our kids are so engaged in other activit


I wanted my dd to love reading. I provided a selection of non-twaddle books – always available, and not forced. I read to her often! I believe the public school system ruins the enjoyment of reading by forcing too much that has to do with it. I went to a scholastic fair and was disgusted by the complete nonsense books – books made from cartoons from television! The public library gave free stuff away if you read one of each genre through summer rather than just reading for enjoyment – and many of them lied just to get the free ticket. Read to your kids. Provide good books – different selections and get outside and wondering. Remove the tv and the video games and be a good model by reading yourself!


I think you are right on all accounts! Less tv, and video games and more reading!


As an educator and a grandparent; reading also affects a child’s writing ability. Personally, I love the close connection reading a book with a grandchild brings. Precious moments of being together in a shared adventure.


As an educator, you would certainly see the connection between reading and writing. It is just so important and such an important foundation for our children’s education. I too love the connection and cuddling that goes with the shared experiences of reading.


The love of reading is very much alive in our family and we started reading to our children before they were born. During Covid Lockdown we read to our grandchildren by FaceTime. And now as ten and four years old, they read a lot! I love seeing them steal away to a private spot outdoors or indoors, lost fir hours in a book. Some of my cherished memories from babyhood spring from grandparents and parents and cousins reading aloud to me as a child then giving me books since I learned to read. Ages ago, I volunteered for a program at a local hospital to gift books to new babies and their parents to take home. A few times I was asked to read to mom and baby as they rested and it was amazing.

Excellent article!


Such great examples of the power of sharing our love of reading and what a beautiful idea to send Mom and baby home with books! I love that. I just spoke to someone who is involved with a group of women who make baby quilts. I’m going to suggest they use their quilts to wrap up a book (maybe a book about quilts!) The Quiltmaker’s Gift: Brumbeau, Jeff, de Marcken, Gail: 9780439309103: Books

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The Author

Karen is a retired college professor, a Certified Health Coach, a Brain Health Coach, a writer, a speaker and a teacher. Her mission is to educate, inspire and influence women 55 and older to step up, dream big and become healthier, happier, and more fulfilled.

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