I tutor a couple of children who hate reading. I don’t mean they’d rather play football or computer games than read, I mean they’d rather gargle saltwater than pick up a book. It’s always a challenge to find something that children like this will read.
I thought about getting them to read magazines or comics instead, but there doesn’t seem to be the same range of titles or quality of articles as there used to be.
I’m going to show my age now, but when I was younger there were age-appropriate magazines with a range of types of writing inside. For younger girls there was Girl, and for the older ones, Jackie. They had photo stories, full length written stories, page-long articles about how to apply make-up, problem pages. It wasn’t just the girly girls who were catered for. My friends and I used to read Shoot, which had interviews with all our favourite football players, discussions about tactics, a letters/opinions page…. There was also Look-in with features about TV shows and several comic strip stories.
I recently scoured the children’s magazine section of a large newsagents, looking for something suitable, but with only a couple of exceptions, there is nothing. I know that people get up-in-arms about the phrase ‘dumbing down’, but in my opinion that is what has happened to children’s magazines. The emphasis seems to be more on the free gifts than the content, which seems to consist of lots of photos of celebrities and/or footballers with a two-line caption under each one, and pages of word searches and spot the difference puzzles. I picked up magazine after magazine and found them all to be the same.
The only exceptions were First News and National Geographic for Kids. Both of these have interesting and informative articles of a reasonable length, with the quality of writing I want my pupils to be producing themselves. The two pupils I mentioned at the beginning of this piece have enjoyed both of these publications. If only there were more magazines of this calibre.
How can we ever hope to encourage our children to read more if we don’t provide them with good quality alternatives to books?
What about you? If you have found any good alternatives I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.