One of the more clever ad campaigns, in my opinion, was, “Got milk?” My variation on this theme is, “Got a good book?” While research on the benefits of homework for Middle School-age students is mixed, that is not true of the benefits of reading. Reading for young people correlates with an increased vocabulary, feel for language, exposure to a broad set of characters, situations, and geographies, and encourages empathy and problem solving. It is also just darn fun.
Is your child launched?
My hope is that every Colorado Academy Middle Schooler is a “launched” independent reader. At this age, it is the “habit” of reading that matters. Does your child read 20 minutes or more for pleasure daily? Does she have a favorite author or genre? For right now, quantity of reading matters much more than quality. There will be plenty of time for War and Peace down the road. What is important, though, is that he wants to read, does so consistently, and builds the reading “muscles” for later on. If your child loves Sports Illustrated, the Wall Street Journal, Science World, or some freakishly narrow specialty field, GREAT! They are on their way.
What about audio books?
While I hope that we all enjoy a mix of reading and listening, audio books serve much the same function and give many of the same exposure benefits, as well as helping students develop an “ear” for language. Audio books are also a great idea for around the house or when you are travelling. An added benefit is the discussion that can take place among family members when EVERYONE is listening to and enjoying the same book while driving to soccer practice or to the mountains.
What you can do to support reading
Like so many things, kids “listen” more to what we do than what we say. In this sense, showing your love of reading by having a good book in hand speaks volumes about what you think matters. Similarly, creating “unplugged” time can encourage reading, as can helping your student create a bedtime (anytime) habit of winding down with the written word. Because many of us read our books on an electronic device, from time to time, you may want to share with your child that you are reading a novel rather than playing a game or watching a video.
What we are up to at school
If you have walked our hallways recently, outside almost every teacher’s door is a “what I’m reading now” display. I just added a new category for “what I am listening to now” to help students understand that this is also a way I enjoy literature. Similarly, three days a week, we have created a 15-20 minute free reading time in the morning for all of our advisories. Often you can hear a pin drop as ALL of our kids (and teachers) are engrossed in a good book. If your student has not had a chance to chat with Allie Bronston, our Middle School librarian, I encourage them to do so. She is always available and a terrific resource for finding the next great read. Finally, we are encouraging all of our students to participate in “Reading Bingo” and have a grade-level, yearlong competition in progress. Right now the 6th and 8th Graders are neck and neck.
The long and short of it is that reading consistently is associated with short- and long-term benefits for young people. Moreover, it is good fun. And by the way, I am always looking for the next great non-fiction title. If you have read a wonderful book recently, please do not hesitate to send me the title, and I might just reply in kind.