“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
It’s impossible to deny the importance of literacy. We read every day. It doesn’t matter if you’re picking up a book for leisure or simply figuring out dosing instructions for over-the-counter medicine, the ability to read is an essential life skill.
But…do you LOVE to read?
Most of us remember the reading assignments we were given as students. We’re talkin’ dry essays, seemingly pointless short stories, chapters upon chapters of textbook drivel and on and on. Pile on a book report and…egads!
Of course, I’m editorializing here, but you get my point. It’s easy to get turned off by reading.
Honestly, it wasn’t until a friend of mine loaned me a copy of J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” that I fell in love with reading. Once I opened it, I couldn’t put it down. Seriously. If you were on the University of Central Oklahoma campus in the fall of 1996, chances are I bumped into you between classes since my eyes were buried in one of Holden Caulfield’s ramblings.
I suppose I identified with Holden. Just about every young guy thinks he’s Holden – at least for a minute or two.
I think what struck me most, though, was the style of the book. So conversational and full of incomplete sentences. Like how people talk.
Since then, I’ve found myself reading everything from the fantasy works of Neil Gaiman to the apologetics of C.S. Lewis. and all things in between. I’ve even found myself immersed in medical journals and magazine articles about string theory. I have a curious mind, I guess…or I’m a wannabe Quantum M.D.
As a father of two young children, it’s hard to find time to read more than “Enemy Pie” or something from the Junie B. Jones series, but I do my best to expand my horizons by stealing time here and there. Right now, I’m reading “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown, but my list just continues to grow and my tastes evolve.
Yes, it’s been 20 years since I first met Holden Caulfield. I’m not so much like that character anymore, but I’m glad some things haven’t changed. I still love a good book.
Instilling a Love of Reading
Help your kiddos fall in love with reading sooner than I did. If they’re youngsters, you’ll want to steer clear of “The Catcher in the Rye.” That’s one parent to another…you know? Check out this fun article I found on Edutopia.org. Instilling a love of reading might be easier than you think.
Do You Know?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a division of the U.S. Department of Education, children who are read to at home enjoy a substantial advantage over children who are not:
- Twenty-six percent of children who were read to three or four times in the last week by a family member recognized all letters of the alphabet. This is compared to 14 percent of children who were read to less frequently.
- The NCES1 also reported that children who were read to frequently are also more likely to:
- count to 20, or higher than those who were not (60% vs. 44%)
- write their own names (54% vs. 40%)
- read or pretend to read (77% vs. 57%)
- 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.
- More than 60 percent of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate.
- Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help. This equates to taxpayer costs of $25,000 per year per inmate and nearly double that amount for juvenile offenders.
- Illiteracy and crime are closely related. The Department of Justice states, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” Over 70% of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.
- Literacy is learned. Illiteracy is passed along by parents who cannot read or write.
- One child in four grows up not knowing how to read. THAT’S 25 PERCENT!
- 43% of adults at Level 1 literacy skills live in poverty compared to only 4% of those at Level 5.
- Low literary costs $73 million per year in terms of direct health care costs. A recent study by Pfizer put the cost much higher.