Kids love to read, but many stop when they hit their teens.

Kids love to read, but many stop when they hit their teens.

One of the first things many kids learn to do as they begin preschool or enter Kindergarten is read. Much of an elementary school child’s school day is spent emphasizing and encouraging reading, which comes home in the form of reading logs, reading olympics and other reward programs. Children are often proud of their reading abilities and the new independence gained by learning to read to themselves.

But by the time children enter their teens, they begin to read less. A lot less.

This week, The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog is publishing a series of columns by University of Virginia professor of psychology Daniel Willingham on teaching children to read. He is the author of the book “Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do.”

Yesterday, Willingham addressed the subject of what causes teens to lose interest in reading. He noted that Department of Labor statistics show that teens spend less than six minutes a day reading for pleasure. The reason? He suspects the volume of must-read material for school makes reading for pleasure a hard thing to remember how to do.

They perceive that the reading they are required to do for school feels like work, not a leisure activity. And that feeling changes their attitude towards leisure reading.

It’s likely that the same is true for college students and busy adults. His suggestion for teachers and adults is to encourage teens to remember how much fun reading can be and to ask them to read material that brings entertains them.

[T]he message might be that reading for leisure includes more options than reading for school. You can skip parts that seem slow. You can peek at the ending. You can drop books at your whim. You can read only in the genre that pleases you, be it biography, horror, manga, or technical diagrams of heavy machinery. The litmus test for any text and any manner of reading is whether it brings you pleasure.

It’s a worthwhile message and one that might also apply to us adults who find it too hard to carve out time for a good read.