Read Any Good Books Lately? Monday, December 13, 2010

Okay today I’m on my soapbox.

I stopped by CVS today after work to pick up a few things. I was walking towards the rear of the store when I spied two teenagers standing (actually they were sort of bobbing around) in front of the magazine rack. I could see that one of them was holding a ‘Spin’ magazine and appeared to be reading something to his buddy. When I got closer I couldn’t believe my ears! Did I say he was reading?  What he was doing was definitely not reading. He sounded more like a first or second grader as he breezed through the one syllable words and stumbled and stuttered over longer ones. It was amazing! I mean the kid had to be seventeen at least. I was embarrassed for him. But he certainly didn’t seem to care. He was perfectly content to stand there sounding like a moron. The teacher in me was outraged.  It was pathetic.

It is apparent to me that in today’s hi-tech, computer driven society, diversion runs unchecked and is deplorable allowed to stagnate the minds of the masses, and  it is becoming more and more evident that reading, and the ability to do so, is rapidly on the decline.

Across the nation test scores reveal  that our high schools are graduating students whose ability to read, is far below average. For many of these students the fault lies with parents who get caught up in their own pursuit of happiness and are too busy to properly  monitor their children reading habits. Then there are those teachers who fail to inspire students and spark their interest in reading, especially in reading for pleasure.

For others, computers and television, our windows to the world, are the culprit. In homes from coast  to coast computers and TV’s have become our primary source of information and entertainment. The home library is virtually non-existent, with the classic works of Melville, Hemingway and Steinbeck, long since replaced by a collection of the latest movies on DVD,(Blue Ray of course) a gaming console or two and scores of games and programs.

In the last decade book sales, both hardcover and paperback, have been on the decline and are becoming scarce in many homes. I’ll never forget a friends visit to my home a few years ago. He arrived with his teenage son in tow. When we entered the family room the young  man took one look at our wall of books and said in amazement, “Wow dad, what do they do with all of those books?” My friend looked over at our collection, then back at his son, shrugged his shoulders and said casually, “read them I guess.”  I guess so.

One of my favorite responses from those who do little or no reading is,” No, I don’t read much, but I’m always  watching  the History and Discovery Channels.” Cool, there’s nothing  wrong with that, they are informative, but it is “NOT” the same as reading. Reading is a personal activity. It improves language skills and provides enrichment for the mind, besides, it’s fun!

Now, I’m not condemning TV or computers, I have both and I enjoy them very much, yet I’m still an avid reader. Although I must confess to having downloaded “The Old Man and the Sea” to my ipod a few months ago. It was sort of nice to lie back with my eyes closed and listen to Hemingway’s story, but I had already read the book twice before, once in high school and once in my early 30’s. Although I enjoyed the audio book experience, and will probably listen to a few more in the future, they will never take the place of reading a good book.

All I’m saying is that parents need to encourage their children to read more often! Grandparents need to encourage their grandchildren to read! And Teachers need to make reading a fun activity for their students. They need to work at changing student attitudes about reading and help them to become active readers. The art of reading is a skill that must be worked at and developed.  If your children become good readers they’ll also be good writers. Both are essential life skills and will help ensure their success.  Do your kids a favor this Christmas and give them a good book.  It will be worth it…

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