I was trolling through teen author Meg Cabot’s blog and ran across this little tidbit in her post:

His [Jon Scieszka’s] “tips for getting kids to read,” by the way, include:

Stop The Testing
All teachers and kids agree: “No Kid Left Behind” is the worst idea EVER! With all this testing, what kid’s got time to read?

Mandatory Reading’s Got to Go
You can plop your cat down in front of food, but you can’t make her eat. Forcing kids to read when they don’t feel like it only makes them resent reading. Let them read when and where they want to.

Broaden Your Definition of What’s Reading
It doesn’t have to be a classic (or 900 pages or on some boring Best 100 Books of Literature) to count: Humor, nonfiction (such as books on sharks), audiobooks (yes, audio books), newspapers, magazines, comic books: If it’s got words, it counts!

Embrace Different Technology
Surfing the web, text messaging, emailing, gaming…it’s all READING! People need to stop looking down on it just because it doesn’t fit the definition of a book. When “they” say reading is down amongst kids, what, exactly, are they counting as reading? Books only? Because reading is actually UP if they’re counting gaming, web content, mangas, etc….

Be a Good Role Model
Show children that reading is cool by reading yourself! And have you read TO a child lately? Part of my “My Favorite Teacher” speech was about how my favorite teacher used to read to us…in the fourth grade! I loved it!

I completely agree, and it’s something I’ve said for a long time.  Nix the mandatory, do-this-or-flunk, attitude about reading, and literacy scores will rise.

About once a week, I see families come into the library where I work, and I invariably hear this conversation:

“Mom (or Dad, although it seems like the Dads are a bit more easygoing), I wanna read this book.”  [insert image of kid holding up a book for parent to look at]

“Is it an A.R. book?”  [when the kid vacillates, the parent usually folds their arms and gets a stern look on their face]  “If it’s not an A.R. book, go put it back.  You have to read A.R. books.”

At this point, there’s usually an argument over reading material.

I hate it.  I hate seeing that, hearing that so often.

When I was in school, the Accelerated Reader program was a brand-new program.  It was not mandatory.  It was for fun, for extra credit.  We had a few A.R. books, only one testing computer (an ancient Micron), and if we felt we needed — or wanted — the points, we could take the test.  I think I took one, in seventh grade.  It wasn’t bad, but if I’d been required to do it, I think I would have been poking my eyeballs out with sharpened pencils.

And as for the technology (and yes, I’m a little biased, being an ebook story writer), I agree with that too.  Words are words, no matter how they are packaged.  Before Gutenberg came out with his printing press, stories were told.  Passed from speaker to speaker.  Do you think people threw a tizzy when they found they could write down their stories and pass them out on paper?  No.  They were excited about it!

So why are we throwing a tizzy over ebooks not being ‘real’ books?  It’s just a different format.  No big deal.  It still accomplishes the same thing — entertaining readers and preserving the story.

Just a few thoughts.  Thanks, Meg, for posting that.

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