I haven't even made it to the first essay. The introduction fired up my mind with questions relating to reading instruction, the emphasis on novels/reading, how technology is changing reading habits, and what the world would be like without novels as we know them.
In the introduction, Roxanne Coady (bookstore owner and editor/inventor of this book) discussed how she came to love reading and how her own deep passion for reading, cultivated when she was very young and sustained throughout her life. She says:
"I was excited to talk with friends about the books I was reading, always eager to hear about what they were reading, and inevitably lending my books out all the time. Reading was my passion. "How many students today would say this? I would venture to say that the number has fallen dramatically in recent years/decades. I do know students who enjoy reading, but I know far more who are passionate about their computer games, IM, cell phones, etc... who rarely ever touch a book voluntarily. These technologies, or new passions, that our students are pursuing don't necessarily replace books however. While they will fill time, and perhaps teach new skills, they don't create the same experience. I love this quote from Roxane Coady (in the introduction):
Reading is a way to live more lives, to experience more worlds, to understand others and develop a compassion for what they confront and endure. It is a way to learn how to knit or build a house or solve an equation, a way to be moved to laughter and wonder and to learn how to live.She goes on to describe her motivation for compiling the essays for this book and delves into the issue of childhood literacy (including mention of the foundation she started). For those of us who grew up surrounded by books, lived in families who modeled excellent reading habits and inspired us to pick up a good book just because, and attended schools that carefully selected novels that would capture our attention, captivate our imaginations and teach us valuable literacy skills and life lessons, it can be easy to assume that all children had/have this same experience. However, this assumption would be dramatically incorrect. There are many, many children who do not have this experience at all. So.... perhaps (hopefully) America's schools are ensuring that student's are exposed to great books and encouraged to develop a passion for reading. I'd like to think that too. But I know this wasn't the case when I was teaching. We moved totally away from novels at the elementary level when we adopted a very prescriptive reading program. That's not to say that we didn't find ways around this-- read-alouds right after recess to re-focus everyone, reading incentive programs to reward reading, family reading nights, etc.---- But when it was all said and done, our students weren't reading very many books. And schools aren't --and can't be-- held accountable for inspiring students to read, only ensuring that students can read. Schools have enough on their plate as it is. Families, communities, organizations, high profile celebrities, politicians, and everyone else involved in the lives of children need to rally behind early literacy initiatives and passionately persuade children to develop a passion for reading using all possible methods!
Concluding her introduction, Roxane Coady leads her readers into the essays by saying:
Apart from the sheer beauty of the essays, they are a dramatic reminder that everywhere, every day, someone is changed, perhaps even saved by words and stories.How true is that! Somehow, for me, it's different when these words and stories are complied into a tangible book format. My reading habits on the internet are typically very different than when I am holding a book, lost in its narrative. Is this the same for our students? Or do digital natives process internet reading differently?