In the lesson, I talk about how you can nurture each area independently but, really, it's better and more fun to develop and maintain all three at the same time. I explain how, through things like dance or being part of a sports team, you can do that. I also talk about how doing something like reading books can do that. When I get to the books part of the discussion, I usually begin it by asking the following question: "How many of you like to read?"
In past classes, the students either raise their hands or they don't. Seeing students shoot their hands up, speaking as a reader and writer myself, is very pleasing and encouraging. In a recent New York Times Book Review podcast, it was reported that more kids are reading print books and e-books. This rise has to do, in part, to the lowering cost of Nooks and Kindles that allow tweens and teens to carry and read more books at one time. In my own school, I see students reading all the time. In the weeks leading up to the release of The Hunger Games movie, the eighth grade lunch period I proctor had clusters of students eating together who were also reading The Hunger Games (some were on to Catching Fire or Mockingjay). Other clusters had students, the YA dystopian sitting on the table, discussing the book and/or planning when they were going to see the movie. When Breaking Dawn, the movie, was about to come out, the same thing was happening with the Twilight books. Again, as a reader, writer and advocate for the power of books, this is very pleasing.
My excitement, however, took a blow the other day. In my opening Health class, when I asked my stundents how many of them like to read, at first only one student, raised her hand. Well, she raised it only as far as her eyes and she did so coyly; hesitantly, apologetically even, like she was owning up to having done something wrong. It wasn't until two of her classmates' hands went up that hers stretched fully towards the ceiling.
Naturally, I'm very happy when I see kids read and I'm happy to meet them. With the abundance of good YA books out there - and there are more coming, like Marie Lu's Legend 2 - I honestly felt that the era of kids who read being viewed as 'nerds' or 'not cool' and having to find safe haven among other nerds just like them had long passed. My student's honest and brave answer to my question, however, told me that it hasn't. If she had just be hesitant, I would've felt that maybe she thought she was the only reader in class and didn't want to stand out and/or appear like she was saying she's better than the others. However, when the look in her eyes and her body language apologised for being a reader, it made me feel that children - and I'm sure some adults - still make fun of those who read and that being able to read, understand and
appreciate a good book isn't as admired as being able to score a goal, belt out a song, dance, dunk a basketball or run a record setting race.
What you're about to read is probably lost on your eyes because I'm likely preaching to the choir. Nonetheless, it has to be said, read and written.
Reading IS cool.
Reading develops language and creativity. It helps us experience emotions and teaches us how to deal with some of those feelings. It brings people together and gives birth to new friendships when the readers find a common bond like with the group reading and sharing of The Hunger Games as the movie was about to be released.
So, don't be shy. Don't be afraid. Be proud to be a reader and announce it to the world. And, pay it forward by sharing something you've read. Abbott Press, the publisher of my debut novel Back Kicks And Broken Promises, put up a post on Twitter today. It said something like, "If you can read, thank a teacher. If you read a book again, thank a writer." That may be true and, as a writer, if anyone reads my book - and future books - more than once I'll be very grateful. However, the last word in that tweet can also be "reader."
Read on and be proud.