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Put Down The Phone And Open A Book

Given an hour to themselves, many teens would rather pick up their devices than a book and can spend up to six hours each day devoted to digital media with girls spending more time on social media sites and boys spending more time on video games.


According to recent research from the American Psychological Association, one in three high school students in the USA do not read books for pleasure yet 82 per cent visit sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram every day. The lack of leisure reading is troubling as only 16 percent of teens read a book, magazine or newspaper daily.

The decline in reading is concerning because the skill set and attention it takes to digest concepts in long-form writing are quite different from glancing at a text message or status update. Reading books and magazine articles is really important for understanding complex ideas and for developing critical thinking skills. It is also excellent practice for students who are going on to tertiary study.

At Woodford House we have introduced many initiatives in the library to encourage girls to put down their devices, including:

  • Booktalk – encouraging girls to share great books they’ve read
  • Chess
  • Games such as mancala, dominoes, Connect 4 and jigsaws
  • Create your own bookmark
  • STEM club
  • VEX robotics
  • 3D printing
  • Other creative activities

Year 9 student, Joelie Scott creates camellia flowers for a display in the library to mark the 125th anniversary of New Zealand women gaining the right to vote.

In boarding at Woodford House, students are encouraged to limit their use of devices to prep and school work and girls are encouraged outside in nice weather, especially at weekends. There are many organised activities and opportunities for girls to engage in academic, creative, cultural and fitness pursuits as well as dedicated time and tranquil common room spaces for socialising in a group.

Recent trips have included the Magpies versus North Harbour Rugby Game in Napier, the Blossom Festival in Hastings and a visit to The Festival at Pukeora Estate in Waipukurau. Other activities have included pilates, baking, sewing for the Dress a Girl around the World project and a Year 11 interschool academic quiz.

So, what can parents do to make their teen put down the phone and open a book?

The first step is prying your teens away from their screens. It must be pleasurable though, so enforced reading won’t work.

Make sure that books are the next best option available to stave off boredom. Litter your house with eye-catching titles and leave books lying around the lounge, the kitchen, and even the bathroom. For ideas about some great reads try out the Woodford House library app.

Try graphic novels – the abundance of pictures coupled with more mature themes and age-appropriate content can help reluctant teens into reading.

Teach them how useful reading can be. The next time your child comes to you with a question, tell them to find the answer by visiting a library and reading about the issue on their own. Explain that books offer a level of in-depth knowledge not available through the “instant gratification” of the Internet.

Finally, it’s important to model good reading behaviour. If you’re on Instagram all the time and you’re nagging your child to read, why would they take that seriously?

Mrs Karen Carswell, Librarian

Adapted from the article Yes, teens are texting and using social media instead of reading books, researchers say by Hannah Natanson