I saw a post over at The Passive Voice this morning that had me shaking my head. Not because the fundamental premise of the post is wrong but because the OP missed one very important point. You see, the OP talks about how 8th grade reading comprehension has declined in recent years. The question is why this is happening. As a mother who had to suffer through her son’s reading assignments and had to find ways to keep him engaged and looking for new books to read, I have a few thoughts as well.
There’s the usual questions about whether kids are spending too much time in front of the screen gaming. Or if they get distracted by being able to go online, etc., when reading e-books. There’s even discussion about how another contributing factor might be how kids are taught to read.
But this quote, and one I whole-heartedly agree with, is the slam dunk. Unfortunately, too many state bureaucrats and education admins and others fail to recognize it, much less take steps to implement it:
“We know that reading motivation causes kids to pick up books and read more. And the more and more you read, the better you get at it.”
Now, this applies to everyone when it comes to reading, no matter what their age. If they are interested in something, they are more likely to read about it. And this, my friends, is where so many of our schools fall down and fail our kids.
How many of you have really looked at what your kids are required to read in school? I’m not talking about their textbooks. Those are bad enough. I’m talking about the required reading during the summer or the supplemental reading lists during the school year. It may have changed since my son was in elementary and middle school, but from what my friends tell me, no.
Back then, the lists were heavily slanted to the females. One summer, there was only one book that had a male lead character. Even then, the topic wasn’t something my son was interested in reading about, especially not during his summer vacation. None of the books were and he was a reader.
Or perhaps I should say he was finally back to being a reader. One teacher turned him off of reading for several years because she used it as punishment. She found the most inappropriate and uninteresting books she could and made those students she didn’t like (all mostly boys) to read them as penalties for whatever transgressions she could come up with.
So, yes, that is one thing that needs to change. Reading should not be viewed as punishment. That means teachers have to find ways to make it fun, not onerous.
While it is important for our kids to read and learn about the challenges they–and others–will face as they grow up, they also need to have fun and interesting things to read as well. If the only books they are assigned are boring and difficult reads (and not necessarily because of the comprehension level but because of the topics), they aren’t going to want to read.
And can you blame them?
And an you blame readers of all ages for looking to other avenues for their books besides traditional publishers. With indie publishing, you don’t have to wait years for your book to finally make it to the “shelves”. You can get it out as quickly as you can write it, edit it, create a cover, have someone copy edit, etc. You can write to the trend if you want. You aren’t reliant on a publisher to tell you when the book will come out, what sort of promo will be done, etc. You are in control.
As a reader, you know you probably won’t have to wait years, maybe even decades between books in a series. Indie writers will continue a series as long as it pays. Sometimes even beyond that. Our challenge is to stay on top of reader trends and markets available to us. Then the decision is ours about where to place our books.
I’ve noted earlier this is what I’m in the middle of doing right now. I have three short stories set in the Honor & Duty universe ready to go wide (Taking Flight, Battle Bound, and Battle Wounds). All I’m waiting for is for the latter two to age out of the KU program. That is supposed to happen today. Once it does, the three will go wide to B&N, Apple, Kobo, and other outlets.
Titles going wide next month will be Hunted and Witchfire Burning (although I may hold the latter until July).
July will be a busy month for titles going wide. Here they are: Sword of Arelion, Nocturnal Origins, Nocturnal Serenade, Nocturnal Interlude, Tracked, Slay Bells Ring and Wedding Bell Blues.
These books will be released wide in August: Vengeance from Ashes, Light Magic, Rogue Magic, Nocturnal Challenge, and Nocturnal Rebellion.
There are others that will come later. I haven’t yet put them on the schedule.
Going along with that, I’ll be releasing A Call to Honor (Honor & Duty) in the second half of June and Fire Storm (Tearing the Veil) in the second half of July.
It means I’ll be busy. Fortunately, the work necessary to take the books wide is minimal, only an hour or two per book (with the exception of those that are getting new covers). I have the files used to create the Amazon e-books. All I have to do is run a check on them, looking for any spelling errors I might have missed before. Then a run through Vellum for the upload files and they’re ready to go to their various stores.
Keep an eye on this blog for news of when I upload the short stories. Once that happens, they will be available in the new stores in a few hours to several days, depending on the gods of software.
For now, I have books to write and conversions to do. Until later!