Max Anderson

Max Elliot Anderson grew up as a reluctant reader. After surveying the market, he sense the need for action-adventures and mysteries for readers 8 – 13, especially boys. Using his extensive experience in the production of motion pictures, videos, and television commercials, Mr. Anderson brings the same visual excitement and heart-pounding action to his stories. Each book has completely different characters, setting, and plot. He’s also begun a traditional series. Seven books are published, with an additional twenty-nine manuscripts completed. Young readers have reported that reading one of his books is like being in an exciting or scary movie. Visit Max at: Books for Boys Blog, Author Web Site, Video - Captain Jack's Treasure, or My Youtube Videos.

Max Anderson

Technology, Kids, and Reading

A year or two ago, when a friend of mine returned from traveling in Japan, he told me that students in Japan’s public schools wear uniforms, so it was easy for my friend to spot them on the street. He noticed that as students waited on the street corner for their busses, no one spoke. The children didn’t look at one another, nor did they even seem to be aware of the others surrounding them. How could they? Each had his or her own electronic device in hand and were looking down at them. Not only were these children unaware of those nearby, they didn’t notice the world around them, either. In addition, my friend didn’t see one student reading a printed book.

You probably noticed something similar around your house this past Thanksgiving and Christmas. Younger members of the family sit around with older members, but they don’t interact very much. Each seems lost in a world of smart phones, iPads, or other electronic gadgets. Some will even text back and forth while in the same room, without speaking. Or they’ll play a Scrabble game while sitting far away from each other. Whatever happened to gathering around a table and interacting while playing family board games?

Don’t get me wrong. I love my iPhone, and technology has greatly simplified the life of an author. In the past, it might have taken weeks to get a manuscript finished, copied, and sent to agents and publishers. The cover design was an entirely different operation. Today we’re able to share files in seconds, make decisions in minutes or hours, and return the finished work electronically.

In writing and publishing circles, much discussion continues about e-books versus printed books. Some say that there’s nothing quite like the smell of a new book or the feel of it in your hands. They love turning real pages or placing a bookmark at the end of a chapter. Others proclaim that electronic readers are the answer. There’s no doubt that e-readers have made significant inroads into the marketplace. It was reported that on this year’s Black Friday, that dreadful shopping day right after Thanksgiving, four times more Kindle devices were sold than at the same time last year. The numbers after Christmas will likely be even more explosive. But is this a good thing?

Have you seen the video of a one-year-old with an iPad and a magazine ( Did you notice how quickly she became bored when the magazine didn’t “do” anything? It just sat there, expecting to be read. In addition, some publishers are including links in their e-book versions so that readers can click on a link and see pictures or learn more about something that is written in the story. For reluctant or struggling readers, this may become another distraction resulting in the reader never finishing the story.

Studies have shown that certain connections are made in the brain while reading that simply don’t happen any other way. I believe that at younger ages it may be important to limit the use of electronic devices in favor of printed books in a quiet room and comfortable chair, where the reader can take full advantage of those mental connections. Yet others have reported that e-books provided the key that opened the reading door for their reluctant readers.

As a child, I was already distracted enough when it came to reading. My mind could easily be invaded by sounds, voices, or music. Even today when reading the paper—yes, we still take two newspapers—I need to be in a quiet place. That means the TV and radio are off and no one is talking. I suspect that an e-reader would have provided even more distractions in my case as a child. This is one of those areas where you’ll need to make your decisions on an individual basis.

Because of technology, people in general have shorter attention spans. Some publishers of children’s books have experimented with chapter lengths of only one or two pages. Graphic novels—books with very little text and lots of drawings or pictures—have emerged in response to this change. They look more like expanded comic books, but some of them are very popular. I think it’s largely because struggling or reluctant readers would prefer not to read all those words found in a traditional children’s novel.

At the same time, a recent article in the New York Times reported that publishers have been cutting back on traditional picture books and the pendulum has begun swinging back to chapter books for children. Whether those books will be read as e-books or be put in print remains to be seen.

How is it at your house? If you have more than one child or grandchild, you’ve already discovered how different they can be. This will also be true in their learning styles. Where one may prefer only printed books, another may lean toward an electronic reader. One may like books with few or no pictures, while the other enjoys a graphic novel with lots of drawings and pictures accompanying the text.

The trick is to find their individual interests and then provide them with the proper material. When our two children were small, we constantly took them to the library where we’d check out stacks and stacks of books. Some selections were made according to our son’s interests while others appealed more to our daughter.

The Internet provides wonderful opportunities to find good books, along with comments and reviews that help in making reading decisions. Then you can check out books or buy them, depending on the reading tastes of each child. No matter how it works for the children in your family or circle of friends, we all know how important reading is for the advancement and success of our children.

I wish you well in your important position of selecting the right material for each of your middle-grade readers.


Captain Jack's Treasure