Here are the literacy-related news items that caught my eye this week:
- The city of Worcester, MA recently celebrated "Literacy in Our City Week." You can read all about it in a June 3rd Worcester Telegraph article. This is part of a campaign by Worcester to be "the city that reads." Worcester was actually the site of one of my more memorable reading-related experiences many years ago, when my two dear friends Gary and Mheir traumatized me by rapping to Yertle the Turtle until quite late at night (while Mheir and I were visiting Gary at WPI). But I'm sure that reading conditions in the city have improved since then.
- Also in Massachusetts, I read a June 4th article in the Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield) about the annual Literacy Tea held at the Craneville School. It's great to hear about kids being so excited about books.
- The Utah Governor is encouraging kids to read books this summer. According to a June 6th article in the Deseret Morning News, "(s)tudents who read 20 minutes a day, five days a week, from June to August will receive certificates of recognition from the Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and first lady Mary Kaye Huntsman...The idea is to ensure children read 20 minutes a day with an adult, an effort the group hopes will ensure children are better prepared for school — and life." Personally, I've never needed any kind of certificate to encourage me to read 20 minutes a day. But if it helps motivate some kids to read more, then it sounds good to me.
- The first lady of Kentucky is also encouraging kids to read this summer, as outlined in a June 8th guest editorial that she wrote for the Community Press in Florence, Kentucky. She talks about her own memories of reading as a child, and outlines the reasons why summer reading programs are so important.
- According to a June 7th article on ESPN.com, "(f)or the sixth year, the Reno Rodeo Association and the Black Stallion Literacy Project (BSLP) will work together to help first grade students in the Washoe County School District discover the joys of reading and the wonders of learning...The Black Stallion Literacy Project and the Reno Rodeo Association take a simple but unique approach to motivate children to read: provide first grade students with an opportunity to experience the magic of touching and interacting with a live horse; talk to them about rodeo, horse care, and the importance of reading; and encourage participating first graders to read by presenting them with a classic hard cover book, Little Black, a Pony by Walter Farley." So, like other programs we've seen where baseball players or soccer players tell kids that reading is cool, here we have the love of reading piggybacking on the love of horses.
- On a similar note, a library in Northern Arkansas apparently imported big cats from a wild-life preserve to help kick off a summer reading program. Or so it says in a June 8th story in the Northwest Arkansas News. "It was a lions and tigers and books kind of thing, or at least that’s what one of the library’s signs stated."
It would be nice if all of these programs that take people or animals that kids think are cool, and use that to try to hype up interest in books weren't needed. I mean, when I was a kid, I read for the same reason I read now -- because I love stories. I don't even recall participating in summer reading programs, because hey, why would I want to spend time putting stickers in a book when I could be reading?
But I think that kids today face a lot more distractions than I did, and that events pointing them towards books can't hurt. I also think that for kids who haven't had a chance yet to learn to love books (because their parents can't or don't read to them, or because they've happened to have teachers who don't read aloud, or because they just haven't found the right book), these programs give them another chance. And you can never give a kid too many chances to fall in love with books!