I work in a New Jersey public high school. As many educators of American children, I unfortunately, along with my peers, battle our students when it comes to reading. For whatever reason–there seem to be an endless amount of theories–children in this country do not gravitate towards reading for pleasure. It simply is not an activity considered for leisure.
However, last year, a new student arrived…from England. For those of you who have traveled to the United Kingdom, you may have noticed how almost EVERYONE seems to read–all the time! I remember while I did my study abroad there, I would get onto the tube in London, and find myself surrounded by open books and newspapers. It was spectacular! That culture, that love for the written word, was a norm in England.
This British student came into the library on his very first day of school and introduced himself, and he soon became one of my (few) regulars. He would pop in at least a couple times a week, check out a book, and we would chat about various titles. Our conversations though would inevitably lead back to how we are both saddened by Americans’ lack of enthusiasm for reading.
This begs the question: why isn’t this a trend in America as well? Why do our children practically despise reading?
I’m not quite sure. However, thanks to my few, regular readers, I have hope that this will turn around. I respect when a student of mine recommends I add a certain book to the collection. It doesn’t matter what genre or format, I try to support all reading! That is why, when my British student ecstatically recommended the Cherub series to me, I just had to follow through! It was equally fun to add some international writers to our modest collection.
And today, when he came into the library for the first time of this school year, I proudly showed the Cherub series books on display–along with all the other new titles. He was thrilled and shocked to see that I had listened and purchased them for the library. He even gushed to his English teacher in the hallway how happy he was to see the Cherub series in the school. It filled my heart with joy!
This made me think…maybe it isn’t a cultural thing. Maybe it is simply because we, as adults, have not realized it is more about fostering, than forcing, when it comes to reading and our children. Maybe it simply comes down to finding the right book, magazine, or newspaper to get our children to WANT to read. We need to ignite that spark in all of them. And, I think a good way to do that is to simply LISTEN.
Hear them out when they discuss interests…that may be a perfect place to start in terms of picking the right title for them. Support reading for the younger generations. We don’t want the written word dying with them.