Parents need to take responsibility for raising thoughtful, empathic, open-minded adults. Books are a crucial part of the equation. But even if we eliminated every digital technology from our lives, our kids still won’t read books unless we tell them in no uncertain terms that books are an important part of being an adult.

Teach your kids to read. And teach your kids that it matters what they read. …

Three interesting findings:

1. Gendered reading starts as early as first grade. Elementary-school boys read tons of “Captain Underpants,” but it doesn’t even make it to the girls’ top 20 list. We’re conditioned to read statistics like this as proof that girls and boys have different preferences, tastes, and attitudes. I don’t believe it. Alternatively, we might read this as evidence that we are creating an increasingly gendered world where roles and intellectual expectations are divided according to biological reproductive organs. If this is really what you want, by all means, keep at it. If not, there are plenty of books that are non-gendered; let your kids know that you think more highly of these.

2. Middle schoolers (in particular 6th graders) are reading the most words per student. The average words per student increases through middle school and then starts decreasing again in high school. I see this as evidence that parents are sending the wrong message about books to their children. We value literacy, cheering on small kids to learn to read as quickly as possible. But when these kids become adolescents they attempt to directly emulate their adult role models. If adults don’t read books then trying to act like an adult means not reading books. …

At the end of the day, how our children read and what our children read says a lot more about adult attitudes about books than it does about the kids’. Model the behaviors and attitudes you want your children to emulate.

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Excerpts from an article at Forbes. Jordan Shapiro is author of Freeplay: A Video Game Guide to Maximum Euphoric Bliss, and MindShift’s Guide To Games And Learning.