There were magazines stacked and spilling out of Rubbermaid tubs. There were newspapers criss-crossing on the end table. There were novels, biographies, and picture books crammed into every shelf.

I grew up in this world, surrounded by printed words, by strange ideas, by wild and faraway lands. Not only did Mom and Dad stockpile printed materials—they actually read them. I saw them do it.

Today there is a widely held misconception: the influx of handheld electronic devices has sabotaged children’s interest in reading. Technophobes think we’re raising a generation of phone-addicted zombies, not brainy kids with the potential to fall in love with literature.

Common Sense Media recently released a report entitled “Children, Teens, and Reading.” The report gives us a big picture look at reading trends in the United States over the last three decades. And it’s not pretty:

According to government studies, since 1984, the percent of 13-year-olds who are weekly readers went down from 70% to 53%, and the percent of 17-year-olds who are weekly readers went from 64% to 40%. The percent of 17-year-olds who never or hardly ever read tripled during this period, from 9% to 27%.

At first glance, you might think there’s a direct correlation with the rise of handheld tech and the decline of teen readership based on the timeline of the study. However, I don’t think this is the case.

Think of it this way. Our world is more text based than ever. People spend all day reading on Google, Twitter, and Facebook. Your smartphone, in essence, is a text delivery machine. We read emails. We read blogs. We read reviews.

But how often do you read a book?

Any book, whether physical or in an electronic format, the medium doesn’t matter. The act of reading a book is what matters.

In a study conducted in 2013, Scholastic discovered there were two main factors that increased a child’s likelihood to read books for fun: an adult reading to them in their early elementary years and seeing their parents read.

Our children’s reading habits say more about our attitudes toward reading, not theirs. Let’s challenge ourselves to read more books and encourage our children to read more too.

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