“Miss, why you makin’ us read this old book? I haven’t read a book since elementary school!” “Miss! Why do we have to read EVERY DAY?!” My inner sigh is profound. Where did we go wrong? When did reading books become a chore?
In my 26 years as an educator, I inevitably have students who share this sentiment in some form or fashion every single year. They wear it proudly as if it is a badge of honor. I often respond with, “This is NOT something to be proud of.” The respective students often shrug and then look to their peers for affirmation. I’ve even had students high-five one another as if they just scored the winning touchdown.
I share a personal story of how my political science instructor my first semester in college assigned 400 pages on a Tuesday to be discussed on a Thursday. I explain that I was able to complete this task because I am a voracious reader. In my experience, I am seeing young people unable to complete 10 pages in 10-15 minutes on a non-academic book they selected to read.
There is research that shows that teens are reading less. An article from the American Psychological Association states that, “…less than 20% of teens report reading a book, magazine, or newspaper daily for pleasure, while more than 80 percent say they use social media every day…” As an English teacher and a lover of reading everything, this is alarming. The article points out that, “our young people aren’t less intelligent, but they do have less experience focusing for longer periods of time and reading long-form text. Being able to read long-form text is crucial for understanding complex issues and developing critical thinking skills…”
Reading is a muscle. It must be exercised daily. Growing up, my father, a migrant worker to a decorated Vietnam Vet to a retired US Army SSGT, required that my siblings and I read at least 30 minutes a day, regardless of if we had homework or not. We could read any genre, as long as there were more words than pictures. We all now have advanced degrees. I don’t have empirical evidence to prove that this practice had any effect on our academic success, but I firmly believe that it played a huge role.
Reading, even fiction, helps build vocabulary and exposes readers to correct grammar. In elementary school, I was a huge James Bond fan. Not the movies, the books. I read Ian Fleming daily. Since he was a British author, I was exposed to words not common in the American vernacular. A book report assignment put me in hot water. She was certain that I had plagiarized as I used the term, ‘perambulator.’ She pulled me to her desk to scold me and asked me what a perambulator was. In my naivete, I thought she didn’t know. Shocked, I whispered, “Miss, it means a baby carriage,” as I didn’t want to embarrass her in class. My parents had already been contacted by the school as to my impending punishment, and when she called them back to apologize my dad explained his policy. Needless to say, I didn’t get in trouble.
Help your children put the phone or tablet down. Turn the Wi-Fi off and go old school. Have everyone in the family pick up a book and read for twenty minutes. Get lost in a story. In my opinion, it will help your child’s future academic success.
English Teacher & Book Lover