I have a two-year-old at home. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her eat… At least when I’m home for dinner. She’s very picky. But my in-laws tell me that she eats all day, like a blue whale, she goes around the house eating everything in sight. I guess I just never see her with food in front of her that she likes. They tell me she likes chocolate yogurt and also cheese. I can’t remember the last time my wife and I served chese and chocolate yogurt for dinner so… Instead, every night when we sit down to dinner, she looks at the plate and says, “I don’t like this.”
This reminds me of early adolescents and reading. I smile to myself when I hear middle school boys say they don’t like to read. Girls too of course, but it’s mostly the boys. I usually respond, “Saying you don’t like to read is like saying you don’t like to eat, you just haven’t found the right book (or, to extend my metaphor, FOOD!!)”
When I was in middle school I was crazy about sports. Especially basketball. Because my older brother Marty played on his high school team, and I idolized Marty, it was my goal to play well enough to make my high school basketball team. I wasn’t much of a reader then. I grew up in Brooklyn so when school was out, as soon as I got home, I got my ball and I went to the park and played basketball until the sun went down. When I was a freshman in high school, I made my high school basketball team. I was beyond excited. Okay, here’s where I admit it, I was a jock, at least I was when I started high school.
But then, when I was in ninth grade, Memorial Day weekend, I got hit by a car and I hurt my elbow badly. I was in a cast all summer and I wasn’t able to go to the beach or play basketball or really do anything active. It was so boring. I was driving my mother crazy with all my complaining. She couldn’t take it anymore and she insisted that I read the books on my summer reading list from school, at the beginning of the summer! My high school gave you a list of books from which you were required to read two over the summer. Motivated initially through sheer boredom I began reading the books on that list. I know that George Orwell’s Animal Farm was on the list, and maybe Huckleberry Finn. I started to become a reader. I loved it. When I was finished with all the books on my summer list, I read Marty’s summer list too. I discovered a whole new world through reading and I’ve never looked back. I remember reading Peter Benchley’s Jaws that summer. I had seen the movie but the book was so much better. In fact, I was surprised that people even wrote books like this. It was so scary and cool. The number one lesson I learned that year is that everyone loves reading, as long as you find things that you LIKE to read.
Reading is so important. The statistics are clear, students who read are more successful in school and in life than students who do not. 20 minutes a day, that’s not a lot. I’ll confess there are days that I don’t get to “leisure read” for 20 minutes a day and I regret that, but I have a job, kids and a mortgage. I miss the days when I was 12 and a day stretched out ahead of me like a grassy field waiting for me to run around and do whatever I wanted. I wish I did more reading then because I sure had more time for it than I have now.
As the summer approaches, make every effort to encourage your children to read. Help them to find books they like, on topics in which they are interested, and buy them the books or take them to the library to borrow them. Our middle school library is a great place for your child to find books they like. There is no one with more knowledge about adolescent literacy and passion for reading than our librarian Pat Minikel. Children should go to the library and speak to Mrs. Minikel. She can help them find books. It could start them on a lifelong passion for reading!
So true! I didn’t know when Chris moved up to 6th you had a summer reading list. In 7th grade you sent a email home and the rest is history. As you know, he is always reading a book of some kind. His sister has started to show interest in your suggestion, “Wonder”. Now she wants to read it with me. I never did say thanks for that email! It changed his life.
When I was in graduate school, I remember The New York Times ran an advertisement “READ WHAT YOU LIKE!” Before that, I felt compelled to read the paper cover to cover…it was overwhelming and boring. I was so happy that the paper gave me “permission” to read what I like. After I started reading only what interested me, I really enjoyed that paper. I tell my students and my own children, READ WHAT YOU LIKE!
Sometimes, kids aren’t sure what they like. So, I tell them to do what I always do. Ask friends for recommendations Find out what everybody’s reading.
Before the summer, I try to do an activity with my students whereby they bring in a favorite book. On the cover of the book, they attach a post-it note that provides a brief explanation of why they like this book. The students are given a log on which they may write down the names and authors of any books which interest them. Then comes the fun part. The books remain on the desks as the students move from desk to desk in 30-second intervals. They read the post-it, take a look at the book, and decide if it’s a book they might like. If so, they write down the title, author, etc. If not, they wait 30 seconds and move to the next desk (and book). This gives kids an opportunity to evaluate 25-30 books in a short period of time. (I must admit, they also love moving from seat to seat when I yell” Next book!”) I also bring some of my personal favorites (for empty desks).
In the end, they go home for the summer with a list of books to read. I also give them a piece of advice that I took a long time ago. When you discover a book that you really like, read everything by that book’s author. You won’t be sorry (usually).
This is awesome Rose!!