The time devoted to reading and book sales have decreased worldwide, making this especially visible among teenagers. Youngsters aged between 14 and 18 progressively abandon reading to devote their time to other activities. This is when more time should be devoted to education but teenagers start to go out with their friends and their parents let them use their mobiles for a longer time. Mobiles cannibalise teenagers’ leisure and distract them from other activities which they used to carry out during their spare time.

Reading was one of them. For example, in Spain, according to data from the Barometer for Reading Habits and Book Sales by the Association of Publishers’ Guilds, 85.2% of children aged between 6 and 9 read in their spare time, while 70.8% aged between 10 and 14 have the same habit. However, only 44.7% of teenagers aged between 15 and 18 are readers.

Schools face an enormous challenge: they will have to make sure that reading becomes another hobby among youngsters and let them know that reading a good book is really worth the effort.

Introducing literature at an early age

At the Best Schools in Spain, we believe that any age is good for reading and that the sooner we start this process the better. That is why children should be introduced to the world of literature in their first few months. Firstly, this should be through words and songs, so that they can enter this new world. Subsequently, when they can pick up objects, they should become familiar with the stories created for them. Publishers have created an enormous range of possibilities in terms of textures, sizes and colours. There are very attractive books which captivate them with their images and with which we encourage them to continue exploring other books. Another phase opens up for children aged between 3 and 6, when they discover reading and where parents and teachers should encourage them to continue advancing.

For children aged between 7 and 9, we can work with them depending on their tastes. Nowadays, there are all types of children’s books which are adapted to their needs. Encouraging them to be curious about books will make it easier for them to get naturally hooked on reading.

When they turn 10, children can complete their favourite books with those from the local or school library. At the library, they will discover new books and share their pastime with other children in their same age group. In that way, they will establish their tastes and meet others with their same hobby. At most of our schools, there are “reading clubs” in which children periodically meet to decide which book to read so that they can share their opinion.

What type of book is perfect for each student?

The books should not only be the classics; we must find those which are of more interest to students because of the subject, historic period or narrative. A good trick for hooking young readers is that the book should have some intrigue. The authors themselves also foster this since they are aware that they will have a greater chance of success among the public with their novels.

We must remember that reading should be voluntary and adapted to the students’ tastes or interests. Forcing someone to read will only cause unwanted contrary effects. Books should not be too long so that they do not discourage anyone. Most students are not used to reading too much, so short books are more likely to encourage them to start reading.

At our schools, there are class debates on books and we have created a Reading Plan adapted to each year; we even reward voluntary reading in the school reports. All tools are valid to ensure that students do not lose such a fundamental habit in their lives which also enriches their development.

All of this will help young readers to one day quote Jorge Luis Borges: “I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library”.