Throughout my childhood, I remember seeing the “Reading is Fundamental” posters that were ubiquitous in school settings and public libraries. Yet, I didn’t always bury my head in books. I certainly was not one of those kids who became enamored with book series as today’s children are with popular series, such as Harry Potter, Junie B. Jones, and Captain Underpants. I eventually came to appreciate books and read more of them by the time I was in high school. Today, I encourage my own children to engage in this transformative activity by reading books to them or sitting with them to listen to them read.
While my kids are among those in a home and school environment where reading is fostered, there are many youths who lack this support or whose parents and teachers lack the resources to adequately provide this support. According to Reading is Fundamental (RIF), a children’s literacy organization based in Washington, D.C., there are twenty-five million children in the United States who cannot read at a proficient level.
A Month-long Celebration of Youth Reading
March 2nd marked twenty-one years of Read Across America, an annual awareness program created by the National Education Association (NEA), which is also based in Washington, D.C. Since the program’s inception, NEA has been committed to the promotion and celebration of reading among youths of all ages. One of the ways the association heightened the importance of Read Across America was by celebrating this program on the birthday of the creative and beloved children’s story writer, Dr. Seuss. What better way to commemorate reading among youths than on the birthday of one of the most celebrated authors of several popular children’s books, including The Cat in the Hat.
While March 2nd is reserved for Read Across America, all of March is reserved for National Reading Month. Because of RIF and NEA’s shared commitment to youth literacy, the two organizations joined forces last year to kick off a month-long promotion campaign that includes free national and local reading activities for youths, literacy resources, and the Million Book March (go to https://www.rif.org for more information on the Million Book March).
A Team Approach to Raising Awareness
There are good reasons why RIF and NEA elected to work side-by-side. According to National Public Radio and the Guardian, there are data showing a marked decrease in children and teenagers reading for pleasure. This is an unsettling finding along with the finding reported earlier on the number of youths who are not reading at a proficient level. Given these findings, the advocacy by these two organizations does not stop at simply announcing that every youth should read as often as possible. To ensure that youths in all segments of society embrace the pleasure of reading and achieve reading proficiency, RIF and NEA continually go to legislators to advocate on behalf of educators and families for the creation of reading programs in schools and communities. They also provide literacy products and services to parents, caretakers, and educators.
Reading is Health-promoting
“Motivating children to read is an important factor in student achievement and creating lifelong successful readers.
~ National Education Association
It should come as no surprise that reading is considered not only fundamental but health-promoting for all youths. In fact, other major organizations, such as the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Canadian Paediatric Society, have published literature on the benefits of nurturing a love of reading in youths.
The benefits of reading are indeed many. Increased knowledge of the surrounding world, active engagement of the brain, improved concentration, improved language skills, development of critical thinking, increased socialization (by discussing a reading topic with others), and simply learning to embrace reading as a fun activity are just a few examples.
Jump on the Read Across America Bandwagon
To honor Read Across America and National Reading Month, the Health-promoting Bandwagon asks that readers of this post contribute in some manner to the promotion of reading in youths. Perhaps you could volunteer at your local library’s reading program and read to youths after school or on the weekend. Perhaps you can sign up to be the mystery reader at your daughter or son’s school and read a story to a class. If you are with youths who enjoy reading alone, then simply asking them about the books they read, such as what they found most fascinating about the topic, is another way to encourage their continued engagement in this health-promoting activity.
To learn about other ways to get involved, go the NEA (http://www.nea.org) and RIF (https://www.rif.org) web sites for more information. You also can contact your state NEA affiliate office for information on events occurring in your community. Click here to find your state NEA affiliate office: http://www.nea.org/home/49809.htm.
So go grab a book, perhaps one by Dr. Seuss, and, above all else, start reading. Also, please feel free to share a favorite book you remember from your youth. Perhaps others would consider reading your favorite to a group of youths at a school or public library or to their own children at home.
Photo credit: Health-promoting Bandwagon.
From the HPB Archives: Originally published on March 6, 2018.
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