On my "Tutoring Services" page, I have included a link to a study published by the National Endowment for the Arts, which provides statistical evidence for the claim that there is a direct correlation between academic achievement and pleasure reading; that link takes you to the full NEA report, called "To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence" but you can also link to a summary of that report from here.
So, how can we get kids to read? This question has an almost embarrassingly simple answer...Give them books that they want to read. If they won't deal with books when you first start encouraging them to read, take care to remember that there are many other ways to absorb words, even if you don't personally approve of them. Use what your kids already like; personally, I think it is a mistake to stigmatize comics, graphic novels, and magazines. Whatever gets them reading can't be all bad, even if you (if all of us)have been conditioned to view those kinds of materials as trash.
Another thing to consider is how much merit there is in trying to censor the books (or even the movies and TV shows your kids watch). As someone who studies violent and upsetting topics, I would be hard-pressed to find something related to my field that isn't graphically violent and or profoundly disturbing. I am not in the habit of paying homage to the philosophy of Cher, the heroine of "Clueless", but her argument against censorship is a valid one: until human beings can stop being violent and cruel to one another, such horrors will always be available for on any news program. In my next entry, I will try to offer some lists of books for different age groups, based on particular interests.