Saturday, November 23, 2013

Random Acts of Reading

Perhaps you've heard of Random Acts of Kindness. This is a wonderful concept. Basically, people are encouraged to be kind for no reason at all, just because it feels right and spreads kindness into the world. I would like to introduce an new twist on this idea. Let's practice Random Acts of Reading. I challenge everyone to show the world that you value reading and read for no other reason than because it is fun and interesting and spreads reading into the world. To do this, I challenge you to be a reading mentor.

Perhaps some of you remember being a reading mentor in elementary school. Maybe as a 5th grader you were paired with a kindergartener and you read together. As the older student, you enjoyed the experience because the younger student looked up to you. You got to be the expert. And unbeknownst to you, you became a better reader. For it is true, the best way to master a skill is to teach that skill. Your young partner benefited because he/she felt good that you, an older student, wanted to spend time reading together. The student learned more because he/she enjoyed the experience. This was a very positive reading mentor experience.

I would also like to share a negative reading mentor experience. As a librarian I have facilitated thirteen summer reading programs. At my library, the children are invited to read for thirty days and earn a free book. The adults read one book and earn a free book. It is very simple; a log is taken home, completed, and returned for the earned prize. Parents bring their children to the library to sign up for summer reading. This is excellent, as they are involving their children in the community, exposing them to the benefits of a library, and helping to create library patrons. But what is not excellent is what I often hear when the parent is invited to join the summer reading program: "I don't have time to read."  

I am amazed every time I hear those words uttered by a parent - I don't have time to read. Perhaps some parents have forgotten that they are their child's first teacher; that their reading habits will become their child's reading habits; that if they don't value reading, their child will not value reading. I agree that life is busy. I have three kids of my own. But reading is important! Children must see their parents reading. They need to know that their parents value reading. They need to see their parents choose reading over TV, sports, talking on the phone, or using the computer.  

If you are not sure when you can squeeze in some reading time, try reading when your children are in the pool. Or maybe the children are doing homework and you are reading. Maybe everyone reads after dinner, then shares something they enjoyed from the book. If a parent is unsure what to read, my suggestion is - read something you like. If it is a romance - totally fine. A thriller - excellent. A cookbook - absolutely. A self-help book on yoga - good choice. A newspaper or magazine - perfect. Don't be snobby in your reading choices for you or your children. Let you children know that reading is fun and enjoyable, not something that is forced on them by their school teacher. Recreate the positive elementary reading mentor experience, only instead of a younger and older student, it is the parent and the child.  

Read together while you are waiting for pizza! Read together while waiting at the dentist! Read together while waiting for cookies to bake. Read jokes to each other. Read to your child. Begin in the womb and don't stop! When your child is old enough to read for her or himself, share the reading. Take turns, let her/him read to you but also read to her/him! Your child needs to hear you read. She/he needs to listen to words, as well as see and read them.

But it is not only parents who are responsible for being reading mentors. We can all be reading mentors! Sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors (you get the idea), read in random places alone or with your nephew, cousin, friend, sister (you get the idea). Show the world that you value reading! If people look at you while your are reading, meet their gaze, smile and ask what they are reading or have read recently. Tell them about your book. Don't be shy, be a proud reader! 

Choose to commit Random Acts of Reading!