It’s amazing to watch the world change. The development of the digital environment entailed changes in other areas of the economy and human life. Whole industries are being rebuilt! Education, finance, services… And that’s just the beginning.
But I wonder how children develop in our era of great change. How digitalization affects them. Still, children are our future; I want it to be bright! There are disputes in both the parent and professional communities. Impact of gadgets, digital games, social networks on child development are hot topics. Psychologists, teachers, parents discuss and disassemble all new cases, try to form a reasonable attitude.
But the understanding of what is happening is still far away. I also have some observations of child development in a digital age. We have a large family, five children from 8 to 20 years old, so I have the opportunity to observe the development of children in dynamics.
Children’s reading crisis
The most characteristic phenomenon now, in my opinion, is the crisis of children’s reading. This is not as striking and not as actively discussed as digital addiction. But attentive parent notes that children of all ages began to read extremely little, if not stopped reading at all.
They read posts on social networks, and those in which there are “a few letters.” And they do not read books at all. Interestingly, this is happening against the backdrop of a publishing boom. Children’s literature now is experiencing an incredible rise. Books of writers from all over the world are published with amazing illustrations of the best artists. However, everything seems to be past the children. There are cult books — Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings. Nevertheless, most children will prefer to watch film adaptations, and not to read.
The keyword is to watch. Video format is preferable for modern children. It’s lighter assimilated. It does not need to be decoded, translated into meanings; no need to be aware and understand the connection of events, the actions of heroes. In video format, everything is chewed, processed by someone (often, by the way, lopsided and with intent) and clearly submitted in the form of a picture. It is easily digestible, shredded food. It is good for babies, but gradually children are transferred to the real food. And, alas, not in the case of reading.
True, there are exceptions. I still observe in some families of children who read with pleasure. They swallow one book after another and demand more. They immerse themselves in reading whole and
completely, forgetting everything until they finish reading the chapter. They can sit behind the book for hours. According to their parents, there is a certain addiction. But, for the purposes of our conversation, we just note that there are reading children.
In most cases, modern child is not interested ib a book. It is especially boring for him when the book is thick. A child’s body, accustomed to wiped food, rejects food of a different variety. He does not learn not only to absorb it, but even to chew it. Therefore, most children prefer movies, TV shows, anime. Video formats explain the popularity of YouTube, short videos — those of TikTok. It turns out a closed circle: children do not read books, because there are much more interesting digital and video content. Therefore, the level of understanding of the text is very low, and it is not improving with age.
The picture is sad. For Russia, it is confirmed by international PISA studies. According to it, the level of understanding of texts of different complexity – artistic, scientific, journalistic – among children in Russia at the exit from school is below average. And it decreases for recent decades. That means we get people who don’t have meaningful reading skill. They will not only not read complex artistic texts, but will hardly understand job descriptions, duties, texts of laws, articles. Such people will prefer a primitive, redesigned method of providing information. This is non-independent, not-thinking, easy-to-impress category of people.
Why does this happen?
A new digital reality that changes our lives, making it much easier, makes many issues more convenient, including information consumption. This is good for a person with already prevailing thinking. It helps in work, increases productivity, saves time. But it plays a cruel joke with children. They prefer digital, light, adapted, redesigned and embellished, embellished with a fair amount of special effects, kind of reality. In which you do not need to work hard to read, understand, reflect on what has been read, to get to the bottom of meaning. Or, maybe there are a lot of meanings, or maybe there are conflicting meanings…
Physiologically, people are arranged so that their brains have to learn. The more difficult training tasks the human brain faces, the more difficult the neural network is formed in it. Reading is an educational task, one of the most powerful ways of development for a person. Reading is the basis of knowledge. At school, all subjects are studied through reading. You can not solve mathematical, physical task without reading and understanding the meaning.
The crisis of child reading leads to the fact that children do not develop. Some scientists talk about digital dementia of the younger generation. For example, German psychiatrist Manfred Spitzer in his book “Antibrain” methodically proves how destructively digital reality affects unformed child thinking.
The situation is aggravated by ignorance of the age characteristics of children. It seems to parents that after primary school child will overcome difficulties with reading technique and will finally start reading books. But exactly the opposite happens. In about fifth grade, the child receives a gadget, takes part in social networks and chat rooms with classmates. After all, this is just the beginning age of adolescence, when children begin to build horizontal ties, become more socialized. Boys immerse themselves in digital games. Year after year goes through these activities, gradually parents have less and less influence on the child. And children are not reading at all.
You could buy new books on interesting themes and pick them up to a child. But this is expensive pleasure. The cost of the book in hardcover is from 500 rubles. Not everyone can afford to track and buy new bestsellers. At the same time, the libraries disappear. We live in a new area of huge density of development. There is no library in our area. You have to go to Moscow for books. Of course, there are school libraries. But there you often find old books of Soviet period only. We must note however: in Moscow library funds are being updated, you can find books by modern authors.
A similar problem is observed with the content of reading textbooks in elementary schools and in literature in high school. The texts are uninteresting, incomprehensible. Reading them to children is painful. They read with reluctance and only because they asked. The relationship is transferred to reading as a whole.
The works of Russian classics that are learnt in high school are a separate sad topic. Heroes and their relationships are difficult to understand, incomprehensible to children. After all, this is a different era, other people. You need good student readership plus teacher talent to to understand that people have the same problems, no matter what era the hero of the book lives in. And for children reading only posts on social networks, and even with “a few letters,” all these works turn out to be too complex. The very solid food that they can not not only learn, but even chew (that is, read). The result is natural: the hostility to classics and reading is entrenched at the same time.
In addition, it is important for parents to understand that the age of their influence on the child is on average limited till 10-12 years. After that age, it is more difficult to influence the child. Therefore, it is necessary to instill a love of reading in preschool and junior school age. Your maximum impact on your child begins in senior preschool, from about six years old. It is then that you are the authority: your judgments are taken by the child on faith.
It is at this point that you need to demonstrate not only your interest in a child’s reading skill, and the desire to help him learn to read – but also that you read yourself! It is an important point. The child is copying your behavior, and any words not backed up by your example will not reach his mind.
I note another feature of the preschool period. Now children are taught to read not at school but by their parents. It is assumed that children come to school already reading. If you open a reading textbook for the first class, you will see that it is compiled for children who are already reading. Parents do not always cope well, especially when children have difficulties. Parents worry, compare their own child with others, they have overpriced expectations from the child. All this can subconsciously form a child’s attitude to reading like something complicated.
But one way or another, the child learned to put letters into words, his parents were relieved to give him to school, hoping that further the reading skill will begin to develop at school. It’s not happening. And on leaving primary school we get a child with poorly worked out reading technique. It is still hard for him to read. We miss valuable time of preschool and junior high school age. And then it’s too late to change something.
3 years ago, we created a game application for teaching reading to preschoolers — “Chitaniya” (Reading Land). So far, this is the only digital resource where a child systematically learns to read, passes all stages from letters to reading words in the game. Starting as opponents of digital games and gadgets, we involuntarily became their supporters. We began to use them so that the child would practice the reading technique in the game.
Giving a child a digital game to work out boring, routine learning skills is a good option for both children and parents. Because children learn in the game easier and faster than if you put them at the table and nail them to the alphabet book. When playing, children often perceive information subconsciously. Playing is especially useful and important for a preschool. And parents are less worrying, do not waste time and effort on the routine, can do more important things with the child – explanation, overcoming individual features, joint reading.
The trajectory of reading learning is harmonized if the parent does not leave the child in the initial school and will continue to support, help improve reading skills. After all, human psychology forces a person to like what he does well and easily. Remember, you start to enjoy driving when you deal with it with ease. Favorite sports, dance, work — the rule applies to all this: you like it because you are used to do it automatically.
Same with reading. It is necessary to practice the reading technique so that the child owns it with ease, then the child is very likely to start reading and love this lesson.
So will children read in the modern world?
The answer depends largely on us, parents. It seems to me, now, in a world with an active digital children’s individual learning trajectories it will be particularly important. Emphasis on child reading, parental support and understanding of the specifics of our time and factors preventing children from reading can become such an individual intrafamily trajectory. I really want to get more reading children!
What can be done?
While the child is in your zone of influence, try to convey the value of reading to him. If you will read books together when he’s a preschool, If he sees you reading, understanding how important this is for you, he will invisibly understand how much reading enriches our lives, makes it fuller, more interesting. Perhaps for yourself your child will choose to read complex texts. Well, if for you reading is nothing more than scrolling through the ribbon of social networks, then you should stand back and accept that books are not for your child. Here are some more tips for harmonious reading training: shift reading training to preschool. Move gradually. Consider the peculiarities of the child’s education and the fact that all children learn to read fluently in different ways. For someone it will take 1 year, and for someone 3 years. And this is normal! Don’t worry and use digital resources to work out routine skills.
Be an example to a child in reading. If you read an e-book in the gadget, be sure to tell him about it. Emphasize what interesting book you read, discuss interesting books with children (relevant for children of all ages, especially for adolescents). Read the books with the child, but not because “it is necessary.” Choose the ones that are interesting for both of you. Read through the roles, take turns.
Do not leave reading when the child goes to school. Remember that you have 4 years of primary schools to help the child improve the reading technique so that the child will want to read. Do not force events. For a first-grader, it is enough to read 1–2 sentences per day. Move gradually, looking at the child. Pick and pick up interesting books available to the child with understandable meaning and a small text.
In the selection of age-compliant literature, it is important to move gradually. To have a child in the 11th grade reading “Crime and Punishment,” in high school there should be warrior cats, dragons, and witches. All the things that we parents don’t like so much, but children like. Consider primitive literature as a necessary step in the development of a child’s reading skill.
About the “Chitanya” (Reading Land) App
Our app is almost 3 years old. We want to develop the project, we see a big demand from parents. Reading Land must be supplemented with understandable texts for reading: there are suck requests to us from parents of our users. Children who have passed Reading Land begin to read their first books. But parents need to look for these books, pick up, buy them… It would be much easier, if the child went to the next application, with the same heroes and no less adventures than those that he experienced in Reading Land. We would very much like to create a supplement to Reading Land. There are already developments.
The topic of systemic mastery of reading skill using technologies is still free. There are applications and sites that give some tasks in preparation for school. But we are sole who applied the system approach in the application. For English-speaking children there is a huge commercial ReadingEggs project that fully covers reading training. For training reading in Russian there is “Reading Land” with great development potential. We are looking for investments in project. Write to us!
By Natalia Sosnina, CEO of Uzelki