It should come as no surprise that reading is an increasingly unpopular activity in this country. And I’ve done my part to make sure this trend continues with the younger generation.
For example, parents are supposed to read to their kids, but I’ve never had the patience to read a children’s book out loud. I preferred to read them horror stories by Edgar Allan Poe that made them cower under the covers. So, my kids were sufficiently scarred to dislike reading during their formative years. They also had little patience for the hours my wife and I spent reading.
Thankfully, we were in step with the rest of the Americans who have replaced reading with TV and video games. According to a recent New Yorker article, only 17 percent of Americans were reading books back in 1955. Can you imagine the statistics now? Americans are not just losing the will to read, they are losing the ability. The author of the article, Caleb Crain, thinks this is a pity because Marcel Proust said that reading is a “miracle of communication in the midst of solitude.” Obviously, Proust never plopped on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and watched reality TV.
After all, TV and writing have the same roots, don’t they? Writing started with people drawing pictures of birds and snakes. Now, we’re finally getting back to learning by looking at pictures. Plus, video images are universal, so we don’t have to bother learning languages.
The author stubbornly insists, however, there are benefits to reading. Readers may be seen as passive, stay-at-home types but the opposite is true. Readers are more likely than non-readers to play sports, exercise, attend cultural events, and volunteer. They’re also more likely to vote. He warns that the reading habit might be dangerous for a democracy to lose.
Forest Parkers appear to be avoiding this danger of sinking into illiteracy. If you consider that 20 percent of the townspeople read the Review, we’re a relatively literate community. Also, the reading skills of our District 91 students are impressive. Seventy percent of them exceed national standards. Our local educators won’t leave well enough alone, though. They’ve instituted a district-wide program to improve reading skills, with the goal of having 90 percent of the students reading at their own grade level or above.
Having grown up in these schools, my three oldest children didn’t stand a chance of becoming anti-literate. And despite my own best efforts, they’ve become avid readers. They’ve embraced reading for pleasure because they can now choose their books, rather than struggling through required ones. They also have more opportunity to read and a greater desire to learn through reading.
Reading in front of them–that’s where my wife and I went wrong.