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Letters to the Editor: Kids are not reading for fun. Blame standardized testing, screens and parents

A person holds a children's book
A children’s book at the Long Beach Public Library’s Mark Twain Branch in 2019.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Thank you for editorial board member Karin Klein’s essay on the decline in children reading for fun. She pointed out several factors that have contributed to the decline but failed to mention a very important change in schools that has brought us to where we are today.

State-mandated tests have reduced reading to analyzing excerpts and as a result, full-length novels and short stories have gone by the wayside. Teachers are under great pressure to show improvement on these tests, and the only way you achieve that is to practice what is tested.

As Klein pointed out, the fallout from the decline in reading for fun has devastating effects on society. We are only beginning to see the detriment that more than two decades of testing has done. Until the burden of testing in schools is lifted, expect this to be the norm.

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The irony is that this is exactly the opposite of what was intended by this testing.

Jason Y. Calizar, Torrance

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To the editor: Klein writes persuasively of the need to foster elective reading for pleasure among school-age children, noting that “parents play a key role in this.”

However, she does not address the need for parents to limit the amount of exposure their children have to media and to carefully monitor the content of that exposure.

I recall standing in a hotel elevator years ago and watching a toddler in her stroller fixated on her iPod. In this infotainment-ridden culture, this “fun” device programs a child to seek the easy stimulus of screen time while allowing parents to find a readily available pacifier.

As we watch with growing dismay the rise of propagandized disinformation, digital media move literacy to the periphery of culture and erode what it means to be educated in a civilized, truth-based humane society. The mind is a dangerous thing to waste and requires constant nourishment.

Barbara Allen Kenney, Paso Robles, Calif.

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To the editor: I think we all know the benefits of reading. May I respectfully request a follow-up piece with helpful suggestions on what we can do about it?

I am a grandma who has given books as gifts to our kids, nieces, nephews and now grandchildren every birthday and Christmas. Perhaps Klein could use that as one example, with free story time at local libraries and bookstores as another. Links to websites such as Goodreads will help bewildered parents find suitable, age-appropriate stories.

And don’t forget to encourage regular one-on-one time reading to little ones — and even big kids too. One student I know struggled with dyslexia, and his mom (not that dads are immune) read with him even when he was a teen.

Lastly, set an example by reading yourself. Watching someone read for pleasure could be contagious. The dishes can wait.

Marty Motia, La Cañada-Flintridge


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