Every year our elementary school holds a Read-A-Thon to encourage reading and raise donations for our non-profit education fund. Every year, my daughters out-do themselves in the hopes that their class will take the title.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened for them yet. Somehow, they never seem to end up in a classroom with enough other kids who are excited about reading. As my (then 3rd grade) daughter put it last year, “a bunch of the kids in my class don’t like to read. They don’t think it’s cool.”
Seriously? 8 year old kids care if reading is cool?? Are kids really judging one another, that young, on whether they read a 20 minutes a night “because my mom made me” or 3 hours “because I love books?”
That is so NOT cool.
I am lucky that my kids really don’t mind – yet – how others perceive them. They are happy in their own skins. And I am definitely lucky that this year, at long last, my fourth grader’s class has a real shot at the Read-A-Thon title thanks to both a wonderful crowd of classmates whose families value reading and a wonderful teacher who has lit a fire in their minds with exciting books, daily independent reading time, and engaging classroom conversations about books.
Thank goodness, because my girl has kind of outdone herself this year: upwards of 34 hours in 10 days.
There might be more hours I don’t know about, since she’s a sneaky after-bedtime-reader. But I’m not signing off on those.
What worries me, though, is that kids who love and value reading seem to be fewer and further between these days. It worries me that the generation growing up right now feels so much pressure to fit in, to be liked – in person and on social media – to do what is cool. I don’t know if it is harder for them than it was for me – and my generation – but I suspect it might be.
With kids as young as elementary school owning their own cell phones, with middle and high school kids more or less branding themselves and judging one another on countless forms of social media, it is easier than ever for kids to see in numerical data, black and white, just how popular or unpopular they are. And if posting “shelfies” or hanging out at the library isn’t going to get a bunch of “likes” – then are these kids going to keep reading?
It makes my head hurt and my heart ache when I see popular culture bashing reading. This quote is from several years ago, but it continues to pop up in the media, over and over. It makes me cringe.
So, this kind of statement from celebrities is what our kids have to contend with? I don’t even know what to say about that. I want less Kanye nonsense, and more Emma Watson wonderment.
I want more news about artists like Usher inspiring kids to read:
I think it’s important to show kids that we love to read, that smart people love to read, that famous people love to read, that “cool” people love to read, that brilliant, world-changing people love to read, that reading is essential and amazing. I want more of THAT in my newsfeed, my instagram, and my child’s life. I never want my child to feel ashamed or left out because she loves books. Or math. Or science. Or history. (I digress.)
If you feel the same, please, take action to make a change. Show your kids images that support the idea that reading IS cool. Visit Scholastic’s World of Possible site for resources that get kids excited about reading. Help your kids, your school or your library organize book clubs for kids to share a love of reading. Post pictures of your kids’ stack of books, their reading log, the times you catch them wrapped up in a good book, and tag them with #raisingreaders or #lovetoread !
And, of course, share this post and comment below. I want to know your experiences, your ideas, your concerns!
For more ways to make your household reader-friendly, please check out this post.