In my ongoing quest to get my rising fourth-grader to read more, I downloaded A Wrinkle in Time onto my iPad (which he's otherwise not allowed to touch). He read a few chapters, lost his place a few times, changed the type color, changed it back, and then got caught up in a paperback copy of Holes that his school sent home for summer reading. When he finished it and declared it his favorite book ever, I asked him if he wanted to go back to A Wrinkle in Time .
"Yes," he said, hesitantly, "but it would be easier if it was a real book."
In France, kids and young teens seem to share my kid's appreciation for actual type on paper. The New York Times reports that Mon Quotidien , a daily paper designed for 10- to 14-year-olds, was such a success in its first few years of publishing that it spawned both Petit Quotidien (for 7- to 10-year-olds) and L'Actu (for 14- to 17-year-olds). It's a paid subscription-only paper, published every day but Sunday, and while more than 165,000 families subscribe, the parents who foot the bill are increasingly non-newspaper-readers themselves. The Times reports that "on a per capita basis, only about half as many papers are sold [in France] as in Germany or Britain, and readership is especially low among the young." The mother of one young subscriber and guest editor confirmed that she has no newspaper subscription herself. She reads books, she says, and listens to the radio.
One youth daily isn't going to save the newspaper business in France or elsewhere, especially since the subscriber numbers drop off as kids age. It's a little soon to say whether Mon Quotidien readers may someday turn to Le Monde . ( Mon Quotidien is 15 years old; its sister papers even younger). A more interesting question is whether kids truly prefer print to pixels for reading, or whether they will once everything else is equal. Does Mon Quotidien appeal most to kids whose parents limit their Internet access? Does its attraction lie in the editorial curating of interesting information (easily re-created online, although not without cost) or in the packaging of that information? Are e-books only truly desirable when convenience outweighs the appeal of the page in hand? Many people suspect that kids who are young today will read everything on a screen in some not-so-distant tomorrow. Mon Quotidien (and the battered copy of A Wrinkle in Time I just pulled off my own shelf) suggest that the jury of young readers may yet make a more varied call.
Photograph of child with iPad by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.