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Do you have a child who won’t embrace reading or the importance of academic achievement despite all your best efforts? Write and tell us your story. Sign your letter by your first name and last initial only (make up either if you wish). Each month, we select one letter that will be answered here by a teen literacy or teen parenting expert.

Technology & reading: Boom or bust?

Dear Keenreaders:

I know most parents and teachers wouldn’t agree with this, but I actually think technology is making kids more likely to read — just not long books. Your thoughts on whether the time spent on computers and texting is good or bad for reading?


Dear Technophile:

That’s a really good question and one that will probably be answered a little farther into the future. No question that kids read a lot more than they used to in communication. They text, chat, email. They’re using language, even if it is the abbreviated language of the technological age. More and more are reading longer stuff on Kindles and iPads and Nooks etc. and that trend is likely to continue. Again, I like balance. You have to be able to read to text and that’s a big plus, and you have to be able to read to find your way around the Internet. But there is value in story, also. The longer stuff. More than discouraging the abbreviated communication of technology, I would encourage the reading of longer, high interest material. None of this stuff is mutually exclusive, and we older folks have to figure out a
way to go the way the river’s flowing.

—Chris Crutcher

Video games

Dear Keenreaders:

Most of the parents I know seem to vilify video games, but they still
let their teens play those games for hours on end. Do you think maybe
there’s some real value in video games after all?

—Questioning Parent

Dear Questioning:

I do think there’s some value to them.  They certainly tickle the
imagination and increase brain activity in certain developmental areas
of the brain.  Like everything else they probably need to be played in
balance with other things.  There’s an addictive quality to most games
and it’s probably not a good idea to stimulate that too much.  I like
the idea of a kid buying video game time by spending time in other
areas.  I would ALWAYS include physical activity in that.

—Chris Crutcher

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Expert in residence: Chris Crutcher

Born on July 17, 1946 in Dayton Ohio to a WWII bomber pilot and a homeaker, Chris Crutcher ( grew up in Cascade, Idaho, a logging town north of Boise. He graduated from Eastern Washington State College—now Eastern Washington University—with a BA in psychology and sociology. He later earned his teaching credential and taught primary and secondary school in Washington State and California.

He admits he was a popular teacher, but not a good one. However, once offered the chance to direct a “last chance” alternative school in Oakland, CA, he thoughtfully served at-risk K-12 students for almost a decade before returning to the Pacific Northwest to write his first book.

Running Loose was his debut novel for Greenwillow, published in the early 1980′s. Nine other novels—Stotan!, Chinese Handcuffs, The Crazy Horse Electric Game, The Deep End, Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes, Ironman, Whale Talk, The Sledding Hill and Deadline—as well as two short story collections—Athletic Shorts and Angry Management—and his autobiography, King of the Mild Frontier—followed. Other books, including more short stories and nonfiction, as well as several motion picture projects are also in development.

Crutcher’s fast-paced fiction—heavily influenced by his vast experience as a child and family therapist and child protection advocate—is known for its expert balance of comedy and tragedy, as well as its unflinching honesty and authentic voice.



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