Who Will Protect Teens From This New Obsession With Book Reading?

from the whatever-shall-we-do? dept

If you look at a lot of the fear-mongering stories about children and video games, one of the big ones is the idea that kids are just sitting around getting fat playing video games, rather than going outside and getting some exercise by playing. Of course, it might make you wonder why the same fear mongering doesn’t show up when the news comes out that the crazy kids today are reading more books than ever before. This may actually surprise a lot of people, who would assume that in this day and age of multiple entertainment options, from TV to movies to game consoles to (of course) the internet and iPods that books would be one of the first things to fall by the wayside. Instead, however, teens are apparently buying books in record numbers — with sales of teen targeted books up a whopping 25% since 1999. Of course, as with things like movies, it sounds like quality is playing a big part in this resurgence. The article quotes people who say that teen-targeted books are a lot more sophisticated and well written than in the past — though don’t give much of an explanation for why that is. One possibility could be that we’re all exposed to a lot more text these days thanks to the internet. While a child in the past might never need to read very much, with the rise of email, instant messaging and social networking, text really has become important, and with that, kids are less scared off by the idea of reading anything, including books. So much for those theory that IM and SMS was going to ruin kids’ literary skills. A second possibility, of course, may simply be that books are more widely and easily available thanks to the web. Kids simply view books as yet another media type to add to their huge appetite for media, and the ease of getting books means that more books are bought.

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Comments on “Who Will Protect Teens From This New Obsession With Book Reading?”

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Read a book a week says:

Of course you failed to mention that reading a book is actually a mental excersise, whilst sitting in front of a PC or TV watching a movie is more of a consuming activity, with not much mental activity going on.

The same can probably not be said for some games, although most games don’t require any great amount of intellect or mental acitivity.

Casper says:

Re: by Read a book a week

What intellect does it require to read a book? I really do get sick and tired of people thinking that if they read enough books, they become more intelligent. If you read more books, you assimilate more information, but it does not make them smarter. Any time around a college campus illustrates this perfectly. You have people walking around quoting “smart” people and pretending that it in some way brings them closer to being “smart”. Information is good, I take in as much information as I can, but it is not making me smarter, it just turns me into a walking reference book.

I actually doubt the benefits of a static source such as a book when it comes to actually promoting intelligence and thought process. A book very rarely challenges a person to adapt their thinking or processing of information more so then to complete a chapter. When you consider a book such as “To Kill a Mockingbird”, which is no different then a teen drama, you have to realize that while it is a long novel, it is not doing anything more then exercising your vocabulary. It does not “teach” children anything more then any other form of story, but the benefit comes from the reading and processing of the words, which helps them to develop better language skills. This can also be done through other sources, and a paper bound book just happens to be the older of the sources.

As far as saying that there is not much mental activity involved in a PC game, it depends on the game. If you are talking about a first person shooter game, then no, there isn’t a lot of thinking… and that is the point. Those are “twitch” games, and they improve reflexes and rapid processing. Role playing games and Cooperative games challenge the person to solve problems, over come obstacles, and cooperate with other people. Since when as a book challenged someone to work with 16 other people to complete a task?

In the end it boils down to preferences. I read books, but I read books more for information then entertainment. I do not find it entertaining to have a story told to me as much as I do to participate.

Tom says:

the teen reading plague

“…teens are apparently buying books in record numbers — with sales of teen targeted books…”
Who is really buying the books? Parents in hope the teen will read them? And since when has the “Sweet Valley High” series or Henry Potter been the equal to “All’s Quite on the Western Front” or “Great Expectations”?

Pedren says:

Re: the teen reading plague

“And since when has the “Sweet Valley High” series or Henry Potter been the equal to “All’s Quite on the Western Front” or “Great Expectations”?

So because some old dead guy wrote your so called “classic” literature it makes it better or more mentally stimulating. Bigotry at its finest. Why are the books you call good better than the books someone else likes.

Lewis Baumstark (profile) says:

Re: the teen reading plague

And since when has the “Sweet Valley High” series or Henry Potter been the equal to “All’s Quite on the Western Front” or “Great Expectations”?

Your view of quality is misplaced. Content of books is far less important — in terms of a child’s development — than correct grammar. Reading works that are grammatically-correct leads to the ability to write works that are grammatically-correct. Whether the book’s content is Sweet Valley High or Great Expectations makes little difference in that respect.

DV Henkel-Wallace (profile) says:

Re: the teen reading plague

I have never heard of “Sweet Valley High” (well, I remember the phenomenon, but I mean the book), but Great Expectations is basically a soap opera. Really a soap opera since it was a serial. But really, I doubt someone under the age of at least 25 can really comprehend the social mores and strictures that underpin “Portrait of a Lady” since those are side-effects of age. Ulysses?

The book I remember reading the most from High School was “Pompeian Graffiti” — well, thumbed and annoying since nobody had written the translations in the margins (in most cases) and many of the words weren’t in my dictionary (e.g. irrumare). Not that I can remember any specific examples any more.

rahrens (profile) says:

not just teens...

My four year old grandson reads regularly for fun. Is already writing, too. I think the idea of being able to use his parents’ computer has a lot to do with it. It only took one recitation of how to spell his new sister’s name (Elizabeth) before he remembered it and wrote it down later in the day!

The brain is like a muscle – exercise it properly and it’ll get better at what it does naturally.

Sanguine Dream says:


I think that access to more books is a big part of it. Ten years a teen was pretty much limited (for the most part) to what was inside city limits. Now a kid can go on the internet and look get books that she/he can’t find nearby.

And having grown up in the boondocks where the only library in the whole county was the school library which was only open during school hours and not open to the public until about 3 years ago I’m fully aware of how boring that can be. It also does not help that I’m in a pretty conservative (at least on the outside but that is another story) area so the book selection of even a public library isn’t that open minded.

But now its doesn’t matter because I can order just about any book of the net and call it a day.

Michael Long says:


Books may take six months to a year to write, but by and large they’re written by one person, not a commitee, and not a focus group. As such the author has quite a bit more control over the quality and content.

Books are also a place where the publisher fulfills a major role: that of filter. Unlike music and movies, books are actually pretty easy to do in comparison, once you take the time element out of the equation, and since again, just a single person can do them. They’re also incredibly hard to do WELL. Spend any amount of time reading the “slush” pile for a publisher, and you’ll find that there’s an amazing amount of junk out there… which the publisher has filtered out for you.

With modern technology, there are also more publishers who specialize in certain niches and do small print runs and even print-on-demand. Again, increasing the supply.

The modern “superstore” of B&N or Borders has also contributed, stocking many, many more books than the common mon-and-pop bookstore, or an old-style Waldens or B.Daltons. And that’s not even mentioning Amazon.

All in all, there’s more supply than ever, and it’s gratifying to see it being used…

rahrens (profile) says:


Tom, I think it’s the teens themselves. Kids nowadays have access to much more cash than earlier generations, and they usually have more control over what they do with it.

All three of my daughters (now twenty to thirty yrs old) grew up making their own cash (no allowances), and consequently were able to have more control over what to do with it, thereby learning faster the real meaning of what money is worth.

But why equate those advanced books to teen level reading? At least not until upper level high school, anyway. (and it’s “All’s QUIET on the Western Front”, you left off the “e”…) (just a nitpick…)

Lance Mertz says:


What games have you played lately? Obviously not WOW or one of the new real time strategy games. You also do not know that kids who play these games are better at problem solving, organizing and thinking. They also tend to read, write and speak better than their peers. Why? Because the games are work, lots of hard work. In order to be good at them you must understand the system the game is structured around, plan ahead and in many cases, read a lot of information online. In addition to this, young people involved in the games build web sites, write articles for their peers and organize guilds, raids and even online parties.

They are intensely interactive, emersive and good for the brain. Now, as for the waste-line, you may have a point, but reading is usually a more or less sedantary activity as well.

And, yes I read, my kids read and we also all play computer games..

GoblinJuice says:

The truth is, most of the “books” teens are reading are pure crap that aren’t intellectually stimulating. Yeah, I’m talking about Harry Pooter and all that Jap crap.

They aren’t reading Michio Kaku, folks.

I’d rather have my son – if I had one, thank the God of my parent’s choice – play a FPS and get his reflexes ready for the war he’ll eventually have to fight, and die, in.

Avid Reader says:

Re: Re:

I’m sorry but the books teens are reading are incredible. i would much rather be reading a book than rotting my brain with video games. Books are stimulating because they require you to think whereas FPS games simply require you to act. How about you get your lazy but off the couch and go buy a book and read it. Then you might have some sense.

Chris says:

I have to agree and disagree with all of you. Any of the three can be considered to make you more “intelligent”. I think that again it is “quality, not quantity” that makes the difference. With video games and TV it matters what you play or watch. My favorite channels are the discovery and history channels. I don’t really watch much of the sitcoms or reality shows that are running just for the ratings.

As for games, I mainly play a first person shooter, a so called “twitch game” called Battlefield 2142. You play online with up to 64 other people. Because of that you have to organize yourself into squads and work together to accomplish the goals. You have to solve the problem of how to take down an enemy position. You have to solve who would fit the situation best. It combines teamwork, social skills, problem solving as well as the usual reflexes and reaction time, as well as knowing the strengths and weakness of each weapon/situation.

So, I believe that video games, TV and books are all bad, and good. Yes, they probably do contribute to obesity, but I think it is up to the parents of the kids to instill proper diet and exercise in the kids. But I also think that when taken in moderation and variety of activities they are good for you too. I get tired of all the hype of this is bad, and that is bad. Parents should just use common sense when it comes to their kids instead of letting some government decide for them.

And before you ask me if I have kids, yes I do, and I encourage her do all 3 activities, but I do limit what and when she can.

hum says:

interesting thought

I frequent book stores, and have often wound up in conversation with kids, and particularly on Friday and Saturday nights, in between or after the movies in my town, kids hit the bookstores.
I have always read, since five years old, and read vast amounts of material on all kinds of subjects, and that wasn’t something that most of my peers did. I also own my own business and wonder if that doesn’t have something to do with it, since I am not quite thirty years old.
More to the point, though, I know many, many kids who spend WAY too much time playing computer and console games, which do nothing to build the imagination, and as little time as they have to outside. My generation is raising another one and we aren’t teaching our children how to play and enjoy their imaginations very well. I think that books play a powerful role in this, and am glad to hear something positive on this front at long last.

SuperFly95 says:


****Of course, it might make you wonder why the same fear mongering doesn’t show up when the news comes out that the crazy kids today are reading more books than ever before.****

Ignorance and lazyness. That it was generally causes fear. Look at history, people have always feared and resisted technology, change, and progress.

Most people are lazy, they don’t want to better themselves by learning and understanding new concepts. Then they justify their ignorance and lazyness by saying new stuff is bad and evil.

I love books. I read a lot. I like how reading sometimes lets you escape, I like analyzing characters responses and putting myself in their situation. I definately agree that you can learn from a book.

I also like computer games. As mentioned before, games now can teach kids A LOT of different analitical skills.

All media can be good or bad. And about the fat thing, it is about balancing out your life. I dont care if it is games, TV, or books that is the addiction, if you center your life around one thing then it is unhealthy.

VultureTX says:

wow such narrow mindedness from pro book ppl

Seriously read those comments from the people who deride compunter games, japanese manga, or even Harry Potter. Ask yourself if their professed love of literature has given them a encompassing viewpoint. They soudn way too cynical for me.

First computer games that encourage tactical and strategic planning are definitely stimulating for the brain (as shown by MRI studies). And if you diss DDR, you are likely messing with the only exercise your kid gets 😉

Second: Japanese Manga varies from comic book level to epic storytelling. And it is mainly the “increase in youth reading” that is being reported today. Just check out your chain book store and see how much space is allocated to Manga. Now compare it to the JA/YA section.

And last Harry Potter. Sure it’s not very original, nor is it High Fantasy or Classic Lit. by any means. But it is a gateway series for kids to get into reading. It is also been found to promote intellectual curiousity and fan fiction (and in 10 years some of next published authors)

I have indulged in all three areas, and have benefited from all of them as well (six years as a librarian assistant and now my pwn library is over 3000 books downstairs).

Digi says:


I have to argue against #2 there. What’s the difference between reading Stephen King and scoping out stories on Digg? Both are reading really in the same way. And frankly, Battlestar Galactica has been as mentally engaging as any book I’ve ever read (This coming from a library kid in school)…

People are confusing the delivery medium with a measure of its content. Books are championed by misguided luddites who assume the old ways must be better. A _good_ book is no more mentally engaging than a _good_ TV show or movie. And certainly _any_ video game is more mentally engaging, if only by the virtue that feedback is required.

By the logic of #2 and many others, there’s a difference between reading a Moby Dick eBook at the desk and reading the paperback version over there on the couch.

W says:


My 13 year old daughter received $50 for her birthday. I asked if she wanted to go buy some cloths and she said no, she wanted to go to Borders and get more books. I have to tell her to put the book down and go to sleep every night. I’m thinking this is a very good thing. And yes she has a Computer, IPOD Video, Gamecube, stereo, and PS2 in her bedroom and those are hardly ever turned on except for homework on the PC.

I wonder if the reading has anything to do with her straight As?? Right!

W says:


My 13 year old daughter received $50 for her birthday. I asked if she wanted to go buy some cloths and she said no, she wanted to go to Borders and get more books. I have to tell her to put the book down and go to sleep every night. I’m thinking this is a very good thing. And yes she has a Computer, IPOD Video, Gamecube, stereo, and PS2 in her bedroom and those are hardly ever turned on except for homework on the PC.

I wonder if the reading has anything to do with her straight As?? Right!

Buzz (profile) says:

I hate novels.

I’ve never enjoyed reading long books. However, I can sit and read computer/tech articles all day. I have great respect for anyone with a solid grasp of English grammar and a powerful selection of English vocabulary. I work hard all the time to cultivate my speech skills. So, I have a deep respect for anyone who reads books often. With that said, I agree with many of the comments above, stating that there is indeed benefit in playing complex computer games. It is true that reading a book lacks stimuli and requires no ‘intelligence’ on the readers part (except for maybe exercising one’s imagination).

|333173|3|_||3 says:

Lenght not the issue either

people seem impressed by those who have read War and Peace (I know, iIhave read the english translation when I was 16), or even books like Lord of the Rngs (1 work, 3 volumes, six books and 1 book of appendecies, about 20-odd, which i first read when I was 11) or Tom Clancy books (first read when 12-13), but they forget that books are not hard to read just because they are long. If children read from when they are young, they get used to understanding new words. War and Peace was not at all hard to read, despite what people say, it is just a rambling tale about a lot of Russians, definitely soapopera material, except that many are upper class.

some childrens books are rubbish, most horse stories especially, and other books aimed at the 9-12 yo girls age range, which generally have very poor grammar. this is a problem, since it is teaching bad practices to children.

Harry Potter is a good series, but he is definitely getting more arrogant as times go by, Snape is right about that. Personally, my favourite character is Slughorn, slimy he may be, but he definitely has style.

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