My Kid Will Not Read Books, What Do I Do?

As we continue on this journey of hanging out with our kids in spaces that we don’t quite understand, the questions came up with an instagram follower about their child who won’t read books and they were trying to figure out how to encourage reading. Knowing kids today, I was taken aback by this conversation and started to ask questions that pushed the topic of graphic novels, manga, and the amount of time their child was spending on their device. When the parent started answering these questions, manga and their cell phone became the topic of conversation and the parent became a bit heated and defensive about the excessive amount of time the child spends on their device. Instantly I knew this could go two ways and I had a feeling I was going to shake the parents’ world right up!


Because this series is about winter break and ways to spend time with your children, I thought it was fitting to talk about device time and reading while encouraging readers to engage in the material on their child’s devices.


In 2022 most if not all of teen reading is done through a device of some sort. Between schools moving in favor of iPads for textbooks and homework and the expansive selection of reading materials through apps like CrunchyRoll, Kindle, and Libby, tens of thousands of teens and young adults are consuming their reading in the virtual space. This winter break, more and more parents will notice their children in their devices for extended periods of time and I encourage you to talk to them about it. 


I say this because over the last year CrunchyRoll has become one of the most used reading and watching apps for the age groups of 13-35 who engage with Anime. The app is like Netflix but for all things Anime both dubbed and subtitled as well as Manga that is not available in other printed formats. 


To share some of the statistics from CrunchyRoll and its user base, in 2012 there were only 100,000 subscribers and today the app has surpassed 120 million subscribers with an average time of viewing at about 45 minutes a day for the streaming side of the house. This app, while something many parents do not understand, CrunchyRoll is actually filled with Manga, which is a Japanese style comic book or graphic novel, and kids are engaging with the reading material with an average in-app read of 6-15 hours per week on average. If we look at that average time spent reading in CrunchyRoll, it is clear that children are reading, they just are not engaging with books the way we did when we were their age.


Back to the angry follower who doesn’t believe their kid is reading. When asked about their device, the parent said the child was always on CrunchyRoll and when it is time for holiday gifts or birthday gifts, the child only asks for CrunchyRoll subscriptions and it was frustrating to the parent because they want their child to get out of their device and start reading and not wasting time on the internet. When I explained to the parent that their child was in fact engaging with written materials, they nearly lost composure and could not believe that their child was reading on this app. I challenged them to ask their child about what they were doing and why CrunchyRoll was so important to them, and the answer they reported back to me was exactly what I thought it was going to be. 


About two weeks ago, the parent reached out to me and said “Alicia, I asked my child what they were doing and they said “I’m reading” and I didnt believe them so I took their Ipad away and demanded they open the app. When I saw a wall of text, I was shocked. They have been reading in this app for a year and I never knew it and I would never had believed you. I offered to buy my child books so they could get out of their device and I learned that many of these things they are reading do not come in print format and can only be viewed on this app. While I wish they would read a book, I have to admit that I was wrong in telling them they do not read and need to get off of their device. Thank you for showing  me that reading is also changing with technology and that access to international products does not negate the fact that my child is reading and engaged with a community I have no understanding of but am going to make an effort to learn more about” 


To say I was shocked would be a lie. I have seen the same responses from friends who are mad that their children lock themselves away and spend hours in silence on their phones but until they are willing to ask the questions, they continue to believe their children are doing nothing but wasting away in the ether. However, we can see that if we just ask and engage with them, we will be surprised to learn that they may be doing the very thing we want them to be doing but in a different format. 


With all of us, the series is about engagement and how to connect with your children during this winter break. I encourage you to ask about what they like to read, where they get the media, and then pick up a manga for yourself and open your eyes to the wonderful world that your child is experiencing. It might actually be the greatest adventure you’ll go on doing this winter season! 


Oh, if you decide to pick up a book in a genre you have no clue about, drop us a comment on Instagram and let us know how the journey was! We love hearing about parents dipping a toe into the waters of the great unknown! 


Happy Reading!

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