Creating a Reader in a World of Multi-Tasking

I have been reading since I was at least 4 years old. I spent much of my childhood curled up under covers with my best friends, the ones found between the pages of books. I could spend hours or days hidden there, sometimes never coming up for air until I had read a book from start to finish. I’m sure there were times that my mother had to remind me to come down or leave the house.

Even now, if I have no other commitments, I can disappear for days, ravenously reading anything that comes my way. Much to my surprise, my addiction has only been fueled more by my Kindle (something I was against owning at first). Don’t get me wrong, I still prefer the feel of a book in my hands, and the joy of turning pages. But, once I discovered the ease of finding FREE books on Kindle, as well as the ease of making a purchase just after you finish one book and realize you want something else to read, I realized that there is something truly wonderful to having words at your finger tips.

As a matter of fact I’ve read around 10 books (or more) since I headed to my “summer home” at the end of June.

Sarah sees me reading all the time. She has picked up the (perhaps bad) habit of collecting books. She claims to love reading as well, but there is a difference that drives me crazy . . .

Sarah never seems to finish a book.

She has several books started. She has a summer homework assignment which requires her to read two books and write 8 essays (short) about them.

Getting her to sit down and read those books has become torture.

Not that she isn’t reading. She is currently sitting next to me reading her Highlight’s magazine. I just cannot get her to sit down and finish a book.

I have a theory. In a world where everything comes in high-speed mini-bites, she can only focus in short bursts. A magazine story or article requires a shorter attention span than a novel.  I see it with all my students, who never seem to finish their reading assignments completely. We are raising a generation of people with the inability to focus for an extended period of time.

It makes me sad. I can only hope that someday Sarah will find a book that she simply cannot put down.

Do you think reading is becoming a lost art?

18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ghostofawriter
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 16:47:57

    I sooo agree with you on this. Granted four-year-olds have a limited attention span anyhow but as a very young child he has a spectacular ability to multi-task that far exceeds many adults I have worked with. I also see the same thing in my 21 and 26-year-old stepsons. They flip between computer screens,web browsers, video games and magazines all while watching TV, eating and talking to their friends. I don’t think the newer generations know how to concentrate on any one thing, so a full novel far exceeds their capabilities.


  2. Kathryn McCullough
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 16:49:21

    Gosh, I hope it hasn’t become a lost art, or those of us who write are screwed. LOL Sorry, selfish way to look at it, I’m sure. Seriously, I don’t think we will ever stop reading. However, I’m heard that publishers are coming out with shorter–ebook versions–of longer books to satisfy just this need you identify. To me, the longer a good book is, the better. Makes it last longer. Hate it when a book I really love ends.


  3. lisaspiral
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 17:04:32

    I think this is part of the appeal of series books too. They know what they are committing to before they pick them up. The best thing about the Harry Potter series as far as I was concerned was the book length. My daughter say’s no body she knows reads (which isn’t true) but she’s working her way through that series again. This time on her own.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Jul 16, 2012 @ 17:23:35

      That’s great! I hope that happens to Sarah someday. She has a lot of series, but she has to get through one book to want to keep reading them. This summer she is just stubborn.


  4. Sparks In Shadow
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 18:04:25

    For the sake of beautiful language within a well crafted story? Yes.

    I think many people will still read stories, even books that move fast and contain the subjects they want to read, but I’m finding that few people understand the endeavor to write well or recognize a finished product that represents it. I’ve been hit in the face with this fact, in conversation, several times in the last month.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Jul 16, 2012 @ 20:03:49

      That makes me so sad. I love falling into a book with rich language and imagery, a book that draws me in because it is so beautifully written. While occasionally I want to glide through pages quickly, I adore slowing down and really relishing beautiful words. Sigh.


  5. Stuart Nager
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 20:17:10

    Six kids in a literacy program: all were asked/told they should read every day, from their summer reading list.

    Of the six, only ONE read since last Thursday. All the others, just one excuse after the other.



  6. jesterqueen (@jesterqueen)
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 22:32:10

    Hmmm…. I would suggest three things. First, ask her why she starts books and doesn’t finish them. Find out what is causing her to lose interest. It may not be what you would expect. Second, invite her to be devious. Tell her it’s OK to read the ending first, for instance, THEN go back and finish the story. I had an anxiety issue when I was 8 or 10, and I’d start all of these books, but not finish them because the TENSION GOT TOO HIGH!!!!! I still have to sometimes read the end first or I rush through to find out what happened instead of enjoying the crazy thing. Finally, bribe the hell out of that kid. Summer homework is a total gyp. Let her know point blank that there is a difference between pleasure reading and educational reading and that, while the two can overlap, making a kid put up with that overlap in summer may not be the fairest thing in the world. Hence, she can earn X for every book she finishes and Y for every report she writes. It may or may not work, but those are some ideas I’m throwing out there.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Jul 16, 2012 @ 22:43:07

      Good ideas. I almost always have to read the last few lines of a book first. I’ve curbed the habit a little with the Kindle, but not always. Maybe that is why, although I just asked and she said, “No.” I’ll have to explore more when she s willing to talk about it.


  7. Andra Watkins
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 23:03:56

    I do fear my own attention span is suffering in the age of rapid-fire web interaction and bytes of information. Like you, I always loved to read, and I can’t imagine a world without books, even now, when I’m slammed with other commitments. I can’t go to sleep at night unless I’ve read a few words that belong to someone else.

    When was the last time she finished a book? Does she have one that she reads again and again? What is is about that book that causes her to do that? Once my mom found the right formula for me, she fed me those books in a steady stream until I branched out to other things on my own.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Jul 17, 2012 @ 09:17:20

      I have tried to ask her that, and she even bought books that she chose based off of it. I think she just resents 1) homework and 2) that books are best read to completion. I will break through one of these days.


  8. ifiwerebraveblog
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:41:46

    I hope not. I think the key is to find something they cannot put down. My 8-year-old loves A to Z Mysteries. My 10-year-old loves Grace Lin at the moment. I have the same worries when my kids don’t finish their books, but maybe finding reading they LOVE is just part of developing their identity as a reader.


  9. thepetalpusher
    Jul 18, 2012 @ 11:36:39

    I see it happening too, Lisa. The 21st century student wants information fast and at their fingertips. We tried a little experiment, through a grant, to buy Kindle’s for the entire 3rd grade–guess what? They were all engaged.


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