Here are some recent children's literacy and reading related stories:
- The Baltimore Sun published an editorial on Sunday about the need to encourage more parents to read to their kids, saying: "Early results from a literacy study show that only 51 percent of Maryland children age 5 and under are read to by their parents every day. Among children in low-income families, the figure drops below 40 percent. That's profoundly sad, not just because so many children are being deprived of the joy that books can bring to their lives, but also because of the potential long-term academic consequences."
- In another opinion piece, Miranda Devine of the Sydney Morning Herald calls literacy the key to future success for "underprivileged indigenous children" in Australia.
- Meanwhile, a Jakarta Post feature article by David Jardine reports that "Few Indonesians read purely for pleasure". The article discusses the historical development of literacy (or lack thereof) under Dutch colonial rule, and the improvement since that time in general reading levels, but says that "Reading for itself is simply not a widespread habit. The population is not imbued with the pursuit of reading for the wider range of benefits it bestows." This conclusion appears to be based on the author's own observations (detailed in the article), rather than any scientific studies. He concludes with " a serious look at how a network of local libraries might be funded."
- On a lighter note, the New Zealand Herald has a feature article by Martha McKenzie-Minfie about the use of beanbag chairs to encourage reading at home. The beanbag idea, part of a reading initiative at the Rongomai School, "sprang from a finding that having a quiet and comfortable space where a parent and child could read was more important than having a good book." It's an interesting notion.
- I also read at the Mombrarian that Wendy's has started including audiobooks in kids' meals, featuring popular characters like Arthur and Junie B. Jones. How cool is that?
- The Mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, John Peyton, has started a new endowment to fund early literacy programs. According to The Florida Times-Union, the "Jacksonville Early Literacy Endowment has been started with $260,000 in donations. The money came from people who had received refunds from Peyton's campaign fund after he won a second term this year. He requested that people give their returned contributions to the endowment." Now there's a nice legacy to leave behind when he leaves office.
- Cristina Madrid writes in the Whittier (California) Daily News about donations by the local Friends of the Library to a program that provides books to inmates of the Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall. The motivation for the program is best described in this quote: "If we could get a kid to read instead of doing stupid things like commit crime then we've done our job."
And there are also various stories, pro and con, about whether or not the Harry Potter books will have a lasting impact on reading. Personally, I think that they will, because they've helped inspire, through their success, publication of so many other great books. And because there are undoubtedly kids out there who started reading because of Harry Potter, and have continued ever since. I also liked what Gail Gauthier wrote about this, in the context of making it cool for parents and kids to be reading children's books, instead of skipping right over them to adult books: "Harry Potter has made it okay for kids to read kids' books." Could you ask for a better legacy than that?