Today is Read Across America! It was established by the National Education Association (NEA) as an “annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading.” The celebration occurs each year on or around the birthday of Theodor Geisel—better known as Dr. Seuss—born on March 2, 1904.
The program highlights the importance of literacy in childhood development and reminds adults to encourage children to read every day. Children who are introduced to books and reading at an early age are more likely to continue reading throughout their lives. Research has shown that children who read often are better readers and do better in school. So, grab a book!
The NEA and state teachers’ associations offer a plethora of ideas for celebrating. Here are just a few things that you can do with a child today!
Read! Pick out a book—or two, or three, or more—and sit with a child and read. Read the book to the child, have him or her read it to you, or take turns reading. Don’t forget to examine the illustrations and use different voices, expressions, and intonations to help your child understand and engage in the story.
Create! Make some bookmarks or bookplates for your favorite books. There are many online resources with printables to color and cut, or you can start from scratch and make your own with plain paper, stickers, ribbons, and more.
Cook! If you have a little chef around, then use the kitchen to get him or her even more excited about stories. How do green eggs and ham really taste? Whip up some “Cat in the Hat” cupcakes.
Play! Act out a favorite story with your drama queen or king. To make it even more fun, take out some costumes or raid the closets. Simple hats, ties, scarves, and shoes can really help you to “become” the characters. Of course, tiaras and jewels, if you have them, add some sparkle.
Write! Read or think about a favorite story and help your reader write a new ending or a book review. If you have an enthusiastic writer, have him or her write a modern version of a classic story or write a completely original story.
Talk! Make sure to discuss books with the other readers in your home, especially teenagers. Talk about the parts of the story, like the characters, setting, conflict, climax, resolution, message, etc. Discuss what you liked or didn’t like about a book. Talk about the differences between a movie and the original book from which it was created. Open dialogue about different genres, book censorship, or storyline trends.
Below are links to even more online ideas and resources to help you celebrate today. Happy reading!
Sometimes we must embrace the understanding that the only thing certain is change. This seems true as we examine the future of publishing and book sellers.
In October 2010, The New York Times ran an article about the decline of picture books from the perspective of book sellers. In December 2010, Publisher’s Weekly (PW) followed up with a contrary response from the publishing industry. Key points to these discussions included the economy, parent expectations, and technology.
In tight economic times it’s easy to understand that families have less money to spend on anything more than necessities. However, what do we value as necessary, and have those views changed? The PW article tells the story of a man who bought his daughter a $14 picture book. The man made minimum wage, didn’t really have the money to spend at the time, and immediately regretted the purchase. However, he returned to the store later to say, “I read that book every night to my little girl. She laughs. That’s the best $14 I ever spent.”
It appears that the value we place on books may be changing. If a parent decides to spend $14 on a book, then the next question becomes which book? Does he buy the picture book or a more advanced chapter book in an attempt to push little Jane to a “higher” level of thinking? Without realizing it, the picture book may be dismissed as babyish. We are starting to see a shift in thinking as many parents mistakenly classify picture books as those appropriate only for ages zero to three, when in fact picture books are aimed at children ages zero to eight. As parental expectations rise, the simplicity with which complex messages can be conveyed through a picture book may be devalued.
Finally, we cannot ignore the role that technology has played in the changing book world. With ever-increasing electronic book and telephone application markets, we see the toll technology is taking on traditional book publishers and retailers. This week, it was reported that Border Books has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and expects to close more than 200 stores nationwide.
The electronic book industry began with an adult/young adult audience; however, we are seeing that children’s publishing is exploring and developing electronic options for youth. I was attending a meeting for parents at my child’s elementary school recently. In front of me sat a young couple with a preschooler. The young child twisted, turned, and tapped at a electronic tablet for longer than I expected her to sit still while the room full of adults carried on a discussion. I couldn’t see the game she was playing, but it was clear that it held this pre-reader’s attention—without any adult interaction—for at least 20 minutes. Within the next one to two years I suspect she’ll use that tablet to begin learning letters, to begin forming words, and to begin reading.
A bad economy, consumer responses, and technological advances have obviously played a part in the changes taking place within local bookstores. We really are not sure what to expect in the future of publishing. How will it look in five, ten, fifteen years? Will we miss the cool crisp feel of the page turning beneath our fingertips as it’s replaced by the quick flip of a fingerswipe across a screen? I guess we’ll have to embrace change and wait for time to tell.
For more reading pleasure, check out these online articles referenced in my commentary: