Scholastic has a 90-year history of helping kids learn to read and encouraging them to love to read. A recent New York Times editorial asks, “Should we be alarmed?” about the availability of e-books. I would respond, quickly and succinctly, no — and yes.
No—because at Scholastic, we are committed to meeting kids where they are. If they are reading traditionally or electronically, they have the opportunity to be informed and inspired by the power of the book. When we released the 2010 Kids & Family Reading Report we were excited by two promising findings. One was that a third of the kids who responded said they would read more if they had an e-book reader. We know from the Cooney Center that kids spend lots of time in front of screens, and I can’t think of a better way for them to use that time than for reading. However, 66% of those same kids responded that they still want to read the kind of books we grew up with. I think this generation of readers is fortunate to be able to read across platforms and media and to experience text in new and interesting ways.
Yes—I’m alarmed, not by the presence of new ways to read, but by the reality that some children experience what might be called “book poverty.” I’m concerned about children who don’t have reading materials at home and who may be affected by reduced hours and limited collections at local and school libraries. I am also concerned that not all kids have the digital tools that invite them into the world of reading. Summer is upon us and there’s well-documented research on the summer slide: the loss of skills experienced by children who don’t read for months.
I’m taken aback by the number of children who can’t read well enough to meet new, challenging standards for college and career preparedness, or who won’t read because they haven’t found the book or books that could make a difference in their perceptions about reading and themselves. I hope that this summer we will put ALL our available resources toward getting more young people to read well and read widely—in any format.
Francie Alexander is the Senior Vice President of Scholastic Education and Chief Academic Officer of Scholastic Inc. She works across both the education and consumer divisions of Scholastic, advising on the creation of educational products and services for children both in and out of school. A distinguished thought leader in education research and policy, Ms. Alexander oversees the Scholastic Education research and evaluation team, ensuring the qualitative validation of all of the company’s educational products and programs. She also serves as a spokesperson on educational best practices, literacy, and parenting.