Do you buy books? Do you buy them for yourself? Do you buy them for your spouse? Do you buy them for your kids? (Sam I am?)
What about gifts? Do you buy them for your nieces and nephews? Do your kids ever give books as gifts to their friends?
I was talking to a dear friend the other day. She is a fabulous mother, the best mother probably ever. I knew her oldest son used to love to read. I asked her, now that he's in high school, how that's going.
He doesn't read anymore, she said. Not even at home, for pleasure. School has killed it for him. He'll read Dickens or Shakespeare in his English classes, labor over every word (because he's a perfectionist); then he'll be forced to answer lots of questions about every chapter or he'll have to write a paragraph about something on every other page. It has made him dread both reading and writing. He had to write an essay the other day, a personal essay, and, once it was written, his teacher gave him a list of twelve grammatical constructions she wanted to see in his essay, so he had to go back through the paper and make sure he had an example of each of the twelve kinds of sentences in the essay.
Why? Do writers write that way? Do they go back through their work and make sure they have the proper amount of grammatical constructions? Do they even think about grammatical constructions? Or do they think about flow and sound and rhythm and words.
Read this interview by mega-author Philip Pullman (sent to me by my dear friend Becky):
We need to stop killing books and writing for kids.
I'm not sure what to do about this. I'm thinking. I still haven't had the courage to talk with Shaemus's teacher and tell her that said is not dead. I don't want her to hate me and I don't want her to hate Shaemus. But at the same time, I moan and bemoan and grouse and complain (too many verbs!) about the state of education, about how no one is teaching kids to love books, and yet I do nothing about it. I complain and do nothing.
I'm going to remedy that situation somehow. I swear I am.
But in the meantime, we have to make the difference up at home. We HAVE to. There are no options here. We can't just throw our children out to the schools and assume they will come back educated. In fact, the only way we can assure ourselves that our children are educated is if they leave high school loving to read. Loving to read will take them ANYWHERE THEY WANT TO GO. Loving to read will make them able to learn ANYTHING. Loving to read will give them the quiet moments they need to ponder and think deeply and make a difference in this world.
If our kids need one thing when they graduate high school, it is a love of reading.
So if they aren't going to get it at school, we have to give it to them at home.
And that starts with buying books. Kids will believe us that books are important if they see us investing in them.
I suggest having a book budget. Even if your book budget is small because your budget is small, create one. Give yourself twenty-five dollars a month to buy books. Remember that study done by an education professor in Tennessee? For summer reading, they sent home at least ten books with every child at a particular elementary school (just ten, which really isn't much), and when the kids came back that fall, their reading scores had gone up. Up! Reading scores almost never go up over the summer. At every other school in that district, scores went down. For most kids they went way, way down, because they don't read at home. But owning those ten books. Having them in their homes. Making those books theirs, made a difference. It made all the difference, and it can make that same difference in your home.
Here are two books to go out and buy today! (Or sometime soon!!!)
For middle grade readers ages eight and up:
Historical graphical novels by Nathan Hale. Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales. The first one is about a spy during the Revolutionary War. The second is about the ironclad steam warships in the Civil War. We bought (bought!) the first one not too long ago, and my kids have devoured it, reading over it and over it. The third one is coming out soon and is about the Donner Party.
And here's a book (probably for girls—but maybe a boy might like it???) for girls eight and up:
Cake Pop Crush by Suzanne Nelson. This book is cute. Very, very cute. Easy to read and cute. Because, of course, there is cake, and, of course, there is a crush. (Look at that grammatical construction. Could you plug that into your next blog post, please???) Give this to your middle grade child (okay, girl...). Buy it for them!