Opinion

COLUMN: Raise a reader – in any format

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I love books and I hope, somewhat selfishly, that my daughter Elise develops a love for reading as well.

I have fond memories of snuggling up against my mom as a child as she patiently (I now realize) re-read my favourite tales.

I remember my dad putting my brother and I to sleep during our elementary school years with Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series on audio cassette – he’d sit in the hall between our bedrooms next to the tape player.

And I’m thrilled my brother eventually grew to love reading as well, giving me unlimited library privileges to a large collection of science fiction, fantasy and graphic novels.

I want to have similar experiences with Elise now and as she grows older. Admittedly, I will be disappointed if as a teen and adult she doesn’t enjoy my favourite books or want to discover new ones with me.

I will likely have to let go of my sentimental attachment to the format. The technology has evolved, and I must as well.

One of her favourite books right now is one we listen to online, Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. Pete the Cat is a groovy blue feline who keeps singing his song no matter what befalls him. Elise grabs the book then taps on my laptop, asking to listen to author Eric Litwin read and sing the story aloud while I turn the pages.

At first I was wary, as I am with anything that draws Elise to the computer screen. Already she runs to my computer for children’s music videos (so intent on watching the animations that she sometimes forgets to dance), and has learned to swipe the screen of her grandparents’ iPad for music and apps. And, being a toddler, she gets agitated when screen time is limited.

But then I remembered the joy I found in listening to Adams – and to Robert Munsch beg Brigid’s mother for more colouring markers in Purple, Green, and Yellow, and emphatically call Ronald a bum in The Paper Bag Princess.

So I am easily on board with listening to books, even if the cassette tapes are now web sites, as long as it’s audio-only.

It’s when she decides she wants to forgo paper books for an e-reader (and she will) that I will have to let go of my sentimental attachment to browsing spines on shelves, feeling the heft of a hardcover, and bookmarking my spot for later.

A new study released by Scholastic on Jan. 14 helps. In the fourth edition of its Kids and Family Reading Report, 1,074 pairs of children age six to 17 and their parents were asked to share their views on reading in “the increasingly digital landscape.”

Scholastic found that half of the children age nine to 17 said they would read more books for fun if they had greater access to ebooks, and one in four boys who has read an ebook said he now reads more books for fun (boys are typically more reluctant readers).

The survey also found that the percentage of children who have read an ebook has almost doubled since 2010 (to 46 per cent from 25 per cent).

Fifteen years from now, when I give Elise Ender’s Game, Dune and Adam’s Guide, I’m sure it will be via e-reader. But as long as she gives them a shot, who cares about the format.

Besides, I’ll always have memories like the one from this past Sunday (Jan. 27, coincidentally, Family Literacy Day in B.C.). My husband set up a bear-shaped kids’ tent in our living room and Elise and I lay next to each other reading all the books we have about bears (and the occasional moose).

I hope you and your family enjoy a rainy Sunday afternoon reading – on paper or e-reader –  or listening to new or old favourites, too.

Kristine Salzmann is a former Black Press reporter and mom to 20-month-old girl Elise. She writes monthly for The Leader on parenting issues.

newsroom@surreyleader.com

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