Monday, October 17, 2005

Pleasure Reading Declining Amongst Teens. Teen Read Week Counters.

The Independent (UK), for October 14, 2005, has a report on the decline of reading for pleasure among kids. The culprit? Testing. This item seemed timely to me given my recent posts about Jonathan Kozol's work. One of the issues Mr. Kozol brings up is the fact that teachers do not have the time to read to their children because they have to follow the scripts to prepare for exams. Well, it seems things are not different across the pond when it comes to the issue of standardized tests. According to the article, reading is seen by children as nothing more than something you need to get a job or pass the exams, not something you do for pleasure. It is interesting to note that schools over there often require students to keep journals of what they read, according to the article. This is not too different from the United States where public school teachers often have similar requirements. The result of this decline in reading is that the quality of the content of those journals has declined as well. The issue does not only affect the students. It also affects the teachers because they "struggled to find the time to keep up with the latest children's fiction and so schools were forced to rely on the same books year after year."

This caught my eye, especially because the American Library Association's Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is sponsoring Teen Read Week this week, October 16 to October 22. According to the website's FAQ section, Teen Read Week is "a national literacy initiative aimed at teens, their parents, librarians, educators, booksellers and other concerned adults. It began in 1998 and is celebrated the third week in October." This year's theme "read for the fun of it" with a look at nonfiction. Rey Mysterio, the WWE professional wrestler, is this year's spokesperson for the campaign. Many public libraries across the nation will focusing on activities to promote recreational reading for teens. It seems that librarian have their work cut out for them given the way that the education "professionals" (read here "bureaucrats") have done their best to extinguish recreational reading in favor of their tests which actually stiffle critical thinking and creativity. However, I refuse to just give in to "those folks." So, let's continue celebrating the freedom to read, and let's continue to nurture a love of reading in our children. So, go on, read a book, read to a young person or with a young person, spread the word, visit your local public library. What else can you do? You can join a book discussion at your local library. You can just read what you want for fun. Keep on reading and learning, and having a great time doing so. Just because the kids are forced not to read at school does not mean they cannot do it outside of school. It does not mean you cannot be reading with them as well.

On a final thought, one of the interesting things that YALSA does is sponsor the ALEX Awards. These awards recognize the best adult books for teenagers. It is a known fact that teens will often read adult books. I have always tried to read books from those lists, mostly because they tend to make good selections, especially in nonfiction.

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