One Fish, Two Fish… Today is Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Theodor Geisel would be 116 years old. This master of the creative word left us a treasury of stories for both young and old. From learning one’s ABC’s to recognizing that a person’s a person no matter how small to the possibility that a grinch’s heart can grow three sizes in one day.
Geisel’s birthday is also known as Read Across America Day. It is a day of promoting books, reading, and learning throughout the U.S. As someone who loves all three of those things, as well as having a soft spot for all things Dr. Seuss, this is one of my favorite days of the year.
Read Across America (RAA) was originally founded in 1998 by the National Education Association. It began as a link with the Dr. Seuss Foundation and has since grown beyond partnering with one single organization. To encourage children from all walks of life to read, RAA works year-round with a variety of organizations to get diverse books into the hands of as many students as they can. (Source)
Why is it so important to get books into the hands of kids? We can probably all agree there are benefits for kids to read, such as doing well in school and those who have read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury know the tragedy of a book-less society. But do we really know – and believe – just how vital literacy is to our kids?
There are many lists out there that talk about the benefits of reading. Some anecdotal, some fun, some scientific, and some a mix of all three. I like this one from the Young Readers Foundation that talks about a host of skills reading can develop, such as the obvious ones like vocabulary skills, but reading can also build critical and analytical thinking, leadership, and confidence. Reading and literacy allow children to get a jump start on life, no matter a child’s socioeconomic status. Especially when adults read to them, even as little babies. This is why RAA Day is so important.
As kids absorb the words they read to them, they can also learn that reading is fun. Connecting ‘fun’ and ‘reading’ is often seen as a dichotomy, especially for boys. This article by Psychology Today not only gives the statistics on the matter, but gives helpful ideas to encourage boys, especially, to read. My favorite idea is to let kids read books they enjoy (and yes, comic books and graphic novels must be included). J. K. Rowling said it perfectly: “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.”
But Rowling’s quote isn’t just for kids. Reading is caught more than taught. If kids see adults spending time with a book (as opposed to screen time), they are more likely to follow that example. But reading as adults has other benefits than just being a good example for kids. Reading is just as important for adults. It can promote concentration, empathy, and stress relief. It can improve one’s mental and physical health by combating depression and high blood pressure. And by reading what you enjoy, it adds fun to an adult’s day.
So, if reading is so good for babies, kids, and adults, what types of books should we be reading? First, and most importantly, we need to be reading what we enjoy. Yes there is reading we have to do, reading we should do, reading we feel obligated to do, but reading for fun is important self-care. Second, we should read more stories, especially fiction. Why? There seems to be evidence that those who read novels are more empathetic, altruistic people. There is also evidence that when we read an action scene, for example, the active part of our brain is stimulated as if we were doing the same action. Or if a character is experiencing an emotion, readers will experience it, too.
If you’re still feeling lost on what books to read, check out book reviewer blogs and social media. (I post book reviews each Wednesday). It’s a great way to connect with others who like similar books as you do. You might even find new authors to enjoy. I certainly have. Also check out your local library. There are a multitude of free resources available for all ages.
Stories have existed since the beginning, long before words were written down. Oral storytelling has passed down culture, tradition, and history. With the advent of the printing press, these stories were not only written down, but made available for the everyday person. Now we have libraries and bookstores and e-readers filled with hundreds of thousands of books. Stories are not just to entertain little kids, Reading is a vital part of human development.
Story is so important. For all ages, socioeconomic, religious, and racial backgrounds. Let’s take today, the birthday of a man who helped promote literacy so well, to celebrate reading and consider how we can participate in raising up a generation of readers. An easy place to begin is by picking up a good book.
Which one did you choose?