Friday, March 4, 2011

Celebrate Reading

March is focus on reading month at Woodglen School.  March 2nd marked the nation-wide celebration of Dr. Seuss's birthday.  What a great way to kick off a focus on reading.  While middle schoolers often think they are too cool to celebrate reading, we have two big opportunities for our students to get involved with a focus on reading.

First, the Lebanon Township PTA is sponsoring a Read A Thon with the theme, "Books are Treasures."  Students can get pledges for the amount of time and pages they read for a two week period from February 25 through March 11.  Money raised will go toward cultural arts and literacy-based programs at Woodglen and Valley View Schools.  In order to get Woodglen students excited about reading, the PTA is sponsoring several events including an Ice Cream Social, a Locker Lottery, and Hat and Pajama days.  In addition, they are encouraging students to share their favorite books which may find their way into the school's library.  Information about the Read A Thon was sent home with students and is available on the PTA website.

The other opportunity for Woodglen Readers is sponsored by the Somerset Patriots and runs through the month of March.  Students who complete six books during the month will received one ticket to a Patriots game, while students who read 12 books receive two tickets.  Information about this opportunity is available at Woodglen School.  Completed paperwork for the Patriots reading challenge must be submitted to Ms. Spann by Friday, April 8.

In addition to providing incentives for reading, we also take time during March to recognize those students who demonstrate a true passion for reading throughout the year.  92 Woodglen students were nominated by their teachers as "Enthusiastic Readers."  These students, nominated as part of a county-wide program met the following criteria:
  • exhibit an enthusiasm for reading and sharing books
  • use books for a variety of purposes
  • read independently on a volunteer basis
  • use school and/or public libraries
  • select books at an appropriate interest level
Those students who were nominated were eligible for recognition at the county level.  Sixth grader, Nicolas Wittkop was Woodglen's representative on the county level.  Locally, these students will be recognized at an in-school celebration.  Ms. Spann does an excellent job of coordinating the "Enthusiastic Readers" program for our school as well as promoting a true love of reading.

So, now you know what is available to provide some motivation for reading and what is happening to recognize those who already read.  What, though, can you do if your child has no interest in reading?  First of all, that is not an uncommon predicament, particularly at the middle school level.  I can totally understand that because I was one of those kids who did not want to read.  While some students don't want to read because they struggle with it, that wasn't the case with me.  I just had no desire.  I'd rather be out playing ball, or cops and robbers (yes, I know I just dated myself), or riding my bike or watching a ball game than read anything.  More importantly, I really didn't like what people wanted me to read.  There was so much focus put on reading the books that you had to read for school.  I usually did that, although, in high school I tried hard to avoid even the required reading.  What was missing form me, though, was the encouragement to find something that I liked to read, regardless of what it was.  From my own experience as a young person who hated to read, an educator and a parent I have found a couple of things that can make reading a positive experience, one that will spur enthusiasm in even the most reluctant reader.  First, pleasure reading does not have to be at a particular reading level.  Teaching reading should be done in school and REINFORCED at home.  Save the difficult reading for school.  If your 8th grader wants to read a book geared more toward a fifth grader let him.  Reading fluency is kind of cyclical, students who don't read fluently usually don't like to read but the way to improve fluency is by reading more frequently.  Letting your child read something "easy" is a good thing, if that is what he chooses.  Second, let your child read something that matches her interests.  If she wants to read a magazine, let her.  It doesn't matter whether it is Sports Illustrated, Cat Fancy, or Girls Life - if they want to read it, let them.  One of the allures of magazines is the fact that most articles are relatively short, which allows them to be finished relatively quickly.  Your child will gain confidence as she finishes what she starts.  I know from my own experience there is nothing more frustrating than having a book drag on for months because I don't have the time to sit down and read two, three or four hundred pages at one time.  Somewhat related to "finishing what you started," if you want to encourage your child to read for pleasure, allow him to stop reading something when he doesn't like it.  If, after a chapter or so, your child doesn't enjoy the book for any reason, don't force him to finish it - that will only foster an attitude of reading as a burden.  Finally, model the behavior you would like to see in your child.  If you are reading and your child sees that, she will likely read as well.  If possible, read what they are reading and discuss it, this is far better than "quizzing" them on the book they are reading, which will likely turn them off.

There are so many more strategies for ways to develop a love of reading in your child.  If you would like some help in this area, please don't hesitate to talk to your child's language arts teacher or our librarian, Kate Spann.  You can also check out the following links:

The American Library Association - Tips to Encourage Reading

Woodglen School Library Reading Lists

While we continue to see technology changing the way we live, reading (and writing) still remain vital.  We may have Kindles instead of books, we may do research online instead of in the library and we may consult blogs instead of newsletters, but, we still need to read - a screen instead of a page - but reading nonetheless.

As I close, I will leave you with a few statistics I found on reading and the importance of reading:
  • In 1999, only 53 percent of children age 3 to 5 were read to by a family member.  (National Center for Education Statistics, Family Reading)
  • 85% of juvenile offenders have problems reading.  (National Center for Adult Literacy)
  • 50% of American Adults are unable to read an eighth grade level book. (Jonathan Kozol, Illiterate America)
Help us celebrate reading this month.  You and your child will be glad you did.

No comments: