• "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of it's creed: "We hold these truths to self-evident that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be to the sit down together at the talbe of brother-hood...I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of character." -Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial
  • "But when a long train of abuses and usurptions pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them uder absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards to their future security." -Declaration of Independence
  • "There are no safe choices, Miss Temple. Only other choices." -A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
  • "If you are a painter, paint. It doesn't mean you have to paint Jesus into every picture, just paint good. If you paint good enough, then people will aask why you do what you do." -Issac Slay; The Fray (on why the band doesn't use the name of Jesus in every song)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Books and Bookworms

As most everybody who knows me knows that I'm a self-proclaimed bookworm. I LOVE books. I've been known to devour a 1,000 page novel in less than a week, depending on my schedule. My parents can't take me into a bookstore or the library without the 50/50 chance of me walking out with less money and one more book to store on my already sagging bookshelf (yes, my bookshelf is in fact sagging with several cubbies double-stacked with books. True story). Most of my closest and dearest friends will spend pretty much all day in Barnes and Noble drinking Starbucks coffee and pouring over the dozens upon dozens of books that the store has to offer. It saddened me when I got an email from Borders saying due to financial troubles, the company was closing its doors (I honestly nearly cried). It wasn't even a day after I got my new DROID phone that I had downloaded the Amazon Kindle with several free classics onto it (I now have four books on there so far). These (and other) examples are all true about me when it comes to books. So when I tell people I'm a voracious bookworm-I'm not kidding. And I owe it all to my parents, who opened up a different dimension in my imagination when they taught me how to read when I was two. I blame them for creating the book-monster I am today (not that I regret it, but it their fault lol). So what does all this rambling about my love/passion/possibly unhealthy obsession with books have to do with anything?

Simple: James Patterson wrote an article for CNN exposing possibly one of the most tragic problems we, as a country, are facing today. Problem: parents, schools, mentors, role models, every single adult in this world are failing kids (especially boys) by not turning them onto books. We whine and gripe about the condition we're leaving our government in to our kids, who are our future, but if said kids grow up not able to read or write properly, then what are we whining about in the first place? They won't be able to take over and try to run what's left of our country's government because THEY CAN'T READ!! The solution? It's simple: in order to bring up our kids' reading abilities, we have got to them away from their computers, away from the tvs and video games and READ!

I've heard parents say that their kids just don't like to read. Well, Mr. Patterson has a solution for that: "The best way to get kids reading more is to give them books that they'll gobble up -- and that will make them ask for another." That's right. Simply find books that will appeal to them the most. Then parents will say, "I don't know what they will like." Pardon me, but that's bull. You're the parent; the person who has swaddled, coddled, cooed, your child from time he/she was born (or adopted, whichever the case maybe). You know what your child likes, dislikes, what makes them happy, sad, mad, their dreams, their goals, what music they like, etc. You know your kid the best. So if your child likes animals, go to the library or go online and find books on animals. If they like history, there's books on historical fiction. If they like a cartoon on tv like X-Men or Yu-Gi-Oh, go into the manga/anime or comic book section and show them that their favorite tv shows are based off of books (it might also appeal to them to tell them that by reading the manga or comic books, they will already know what has happened by the time the show gets around to it; most times, I've found the manga are at least a year ahead of the episodes). Or better yet, take them to the library or bookstore and let them explore the shelves and see what interests them. You might just be surprised at what peaks their interest. 

Mr. Patterson also warns parents to not tell their kids that a book is too hard or easy. Case in point: by the time I was thirteen, I was already reading Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Granted, my reading comprehension levels were way above my grade, but the point is, my parents very rarely told me I couldn't read a certain book. Yes, while they made sure I stayed clear of the romance section of Barnes and Noble for obvious reasons, they also never put limitations or restrictions on what I read. I pretty much had free range of the library and bookstores and what they found is that even though I would pretty read anything and everything they put in front of me, they also found that I would (and still do) gravitate towards the science fiction/fantasy section. So don't discourage your kids from reading what interests them. Even with all the controversy that surrounded Harry Potter, the seven-part series turned thousands upon thousands of kids, both girls and boys alike, onto reading. 

Parents shouldn't leave it up to the public school system to make sure their kids find books they like and actually read them. While many schools have great programs to get kids to read, most schools, sadly, actually don't give a crap. They would rather put the money they receive from the government in sports equipment rather than education. I lost count of how many times my mom and dad had to fight the school in order to let me go into an advanced reading class (which never happened). But, on the flip side, there are the exceptions of schools having great programs or simply individual teachers creating incentives for their class to read more (my second grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade teachers were a part of this: my second-grade teacher had an incentive program for the class to get them to read more. Basically, the student with the highest number of books read would get the coolest prize out of the treasure chest. Needless to say, my childhood best friend and I were the top two who the most [I won by just a couple books]. My fourth grade teacher set aside thirty minutes or so and read to us [one of the books was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone]. My fifth grade teacher set aside a set time period where we could read a book of our own choice, but at the end of each book, we had to write up a small book report and discuss the book with her. I'm pretty sure I was the only one in the class who came up to her with the most book reports to talk about. LOL).

In the article, Mr. Patterson discusses other options and websites to help parents get their kids reading more (I realize I hadn't done it before, but here's the link for Mr. Patterson's article  I think this article needs to go viral and get passed along any chance we got. Because, let's face it, by not getting our kids to read more, we're failing them creatively and academically. Reading a book, whether it's sitting on a shelf or downloaded onto a Nook or Kindle, opens doors to new worlds and dimensions that we cannot possibly fathom. It sharpens and hones a child's imagination. Without reading, we would not have anymore teenagers vying to publish their own stories; kids learning how to create new works of art; kids jamming out a new piece of music they simply created on a whim; children going outside and sitting under a tree, ready to open the new novel they have been dying to read for the longest. Without reading, we would lose all that and more. 

Earlier, I may have come across as harsh and brash, but this is a subject that I feel needs to be talked about, discussed, and then done something about. Cause if we don't do something now...there won't be a future to talk about later...

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