Share a Story - Shape a Future: Day 5: The Future of Reading
The Pigman: Paul Zindel

Public Information Campaign for Read-Aloud: Follow-up

ShareAStoryLogo-color On Monday, as part of the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour, I wrote about the possibility of a public information campaign to encourage reading aloud with kids. Specifically, I asked:

  1. Do you think that a public information campaign about the importance of read-aloud makes sense?
  2. If so, who would you suggest as a prominent spokesperson to bring attention to this cause?

About a dozen people responded this week, and I'd like to share some of that feedback here. I've also referenced a few comments from my first post on this topic (just some of the ones specifically relevant to the public information campaign idea). But please do read through the comments on the both posts, if you're interested in this, as I had to select a sub-set from the thoughtful discussion. [Many of the suggestions from the earlier post, the ones not specific to a public information campaign, were included in a fabulous Share a Story - Shape a Future resource kit, prepared by Terry Doherty and Susan Stephenson.]

  • Carol Rasco reminded me (via email) that there is a nonprofit out there working to promote reading aloud with young children: Read it LOUD!, founded by Wally ("Famous") Amos. Their website explains: "Building on the reading promotion and young readers initiative of The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, a three-year public-private partnership – Read it LOUD! -  has been formed with the Read it LOUD! Foundation to stimulate 5,000,000 parents nationwide to read every day to their children. Many sponsors and donors are joining this extraordinary partnership." They have a very nice website, though I found it a bit difficult to tell what's currently going on with the organization. But I certainly support their mission!
  • (Updated to add) Another nonprofit working in this specific area is Richmond-based Read to Them. Their mission is to "celebrate the lifelong benefits – for both children and adults – of reading aloud." They focus on advocacy for read-aloud, and one school, one book programs. Thanks to Mary Lee Hahn for the link.
  • Terry Doherty pointed out that "The *slogan* needs to be short and clear, not unlike "smoking kills." Suzanne suggested "copying the idea of the campaign "Got milk?" - only this one would be "Read lately?"" Susan Stephenson also supported the importance of a simple, easy to follow message. Karen suggested last month: "Parents are very concerned about safety issues like sun protection, environmental toxins and bicycle helmets, etc. Could reading and the potential harms of not reading be exposed in a similar way?"
  • Terry added: "Rather than rely on the Oprah platform to launch the campaign, I would like to see a simulcast across all major TV channels, with lots of cross-promoting (e.g., ESPN personality on CNN, and vice versa)... A program that shows real people of various walks of life (not just celebrities) "practicing reading" in its various forms (at home, at school, with a tutor, with a sibling, listening at the library, etc)."
  • Carol added: "A dream would be a prime time show on several networks and online simliar to what NBC, ABC, CBS and perhaps others did on cancer research/awareness not too very long ago." 
  • Suzanne said: "the campaign should probably explore the use of additional technology beyond magazine ads and PBS spots - let's explore the use of YouTube and email and having the spokespeople produce their own bits. Less "professional", but authentic and grassroots". Cheryl Rainfield had also suggested earlier: "internet ads, maybe an email ad, even radio (like satelitte radio).... Bookstore bookmarks, or printable bookmarks, that kind of thing."
  • Eva Mitnick said: "I like the idea of a "team" of people getting the word out. They can be leaders, media giants, authors, celebrities - perhaps with one huge person in the lead. Our society needs to be permeated with the message - after all, we all know that we must brush our teeth (and amazingly, most of us do), and this is just as important." Suzanne discussed this team approach, too. Terry added: "Some of this goes back to the idea that people want to see themselves. That's where a team can help: parents (moms and dad, but not necessarily together); suburbanites and city dwellers; book lovers and book reticents." And really, most contributors seemed to think that the team approach was the right idea, ideally with some high-profile person or family to start things off.
  • Specific suggestions for potential celebrity spokespeople ranged from sports figures, actors, and children's to current and former First Ladies. Celebrities named so far have included (with thanks to Terry, Kate Coombs, Aerin, and Suzanne): Barbara Bush, Michelle Obama, Mo Willems, Neil Gaiman, Angelina Jolie, Katie Holmes, Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith, Angie Harmon and Jason Sehorn, Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete, Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, and even recognizable younger people, like the Obama girls, Miley Cyrus, Dakota Fanning, and the like. Michelle Obama generated the most mentions.
  • There was a general feeling (expressed first by Aerin) that anyone acting as the public face of a campaign like this should be a parent.
  • Christine and Tif both mentioned (on the earlier post) that a public information campaign should also include pediaticians (both the AMA and the American Osteopathic Association). Marjorie Coughlan added: "how about some of those celebrities you mention reading stories not just to children but to adults - put us in the shoes of the listener and see how much enjoyment we get out of it."
  • Andrea added: "I'd like to see a campaign focused on reading to older children. Too many parents stop reading to their children as soon as they can read themselves. I would like to see a campaign with images that includes upper elementary children being read to." Teacherninja suggested last month that the PSAs include specific book recommendations, especially for older kids.
  • Australian Susan Stephenson suggested that, while an international campaign would be "wonderful", international might be too broad a scope to start with, especially given the variation in potential spokespeople that you'd need for different countries.
  • Bookworm reminded us that even as a campaign sounds exciting, people can get "charged up" to share information with their families and friends every day (as the Share a Story - Shape a Future event demonstrated). Deb Nance also discussed ideas and plans for more local efforts.
  • Finally, Jenny stressed the importance of keeping teachers involved, adding: "I think that to really raise a nation of readers, there needs to be a policy change in terms of reading curriculum and what matters most... A public service campaign might be just what is needed, but I really believe that to get this to take flight teachers will need to carve out time to read wonderful books without worrying about loosing time intended for basic skills." [I know that Donalyn Miller would agree on the importance of teachers in this matter - I've just started reading Donalyn's new book for teachers: The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, and it is amazing!!]

Isn't that all great stuff? Many thanks to everyone who contributed to the discussion this week, and to the many commenters on my first post about a campaign for read-aloud. I'm not precisely sure where to go from here, but perhaps this discussion will inspire someone, somewhere, to take action. Thanks for reading!

Image credit: Author/illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba created the Share a Story - Shape a Future logo.