Reading Celebrations

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The Vermont Council on Reading has designated next week “I Love To Read and Write” week.

There’ll be lots of classroom and school activities throughout the state. The celebration will culminate with a statewide sustained silent reading time on Friday, from 1:30 to 2 pm.

A couple of weeks later, the Vermont branch of the National Education Association will take a different tack.

On Saturday, March 2nd, Vermont educators will celebrate children’s author Dr. Seuss’ birthday to kick off the national Read Across America week that follows.

That’s a lot of hoopla about reading, but I say we need all the hoopla we can get.

While there’s been a smattering of improvement on the reading front recently, it’s clear that we have quite a way to go yet.

Having worked on reading with teachers for a number of years, I can tell you the problems we face are not because Vermont’s teachers aren’t working very hard to make things better.

Elementary school teachers have been revising their approaches to reading, integrating the latest of what the research has to say with the realities they face in their classrooms.

Now middle and high-school teachers are beginning to pay more attention to reading not just English teachers and reading specialists, but science teachers, and math teachers, and history teachers.

So why are we still having trouble? Why do we still find that one-third of our 4th graders have difficulty analyzing what they’re reading, and that eighth and tenth graders continue to score even more poorly.

To start with, it’s really hard to learn to read. It was hard for most of us to learn to read. But every year the forces that provide mind-numbing alternatives to reading grow and extend their reach into children’s lives.

It began with television. Then came hundreds of stations via cable and satellite dishes, VCRs, and video games and now the Internet. There is so much visually stimulating mind candy out there for kids to choose from, it’s hard to imagine why any of them would want to spend time with something as demanding yet placid as reading.

So if these celebrations get a few more kids to take a few more minutes with a book, we’ve made a difference.

Even more important, if these celebrations get a few more adults to read to their kids, or take them to the library, or talk about books or ideas, we’ve made a real difference. They might even shut off the TV so the family can read or just to talk together.

So find our what’s going on in your community during next week’s I Love To Read and Write week. And don’t forget Read Across America week beginning March 2nd. Make something happen. Get involved. Get your kids involved. Get your neighbors and your neighbors’ kids involved. This really matters.

This is Nick Boke in Weathersfield, Vermont.

–Nick Boke is a reading consultant, minister and freelance writer.

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