It’s been over ten months since my last post. Yikes. No doubt that has a lot to do with my doing a bit of career exploration over the past year and half. Quite an adventure, but that is a story for another time. I’ve landed safely back in academia which suits me just fine. For now.
This Wednesday is World Read Aloud Day. To those of us who read daily to our children, this might seem like another unnecessary “event” conjured up to create social media opportunities. But the sad truth is that children all over the world not only don’t get read aloud to on a regular basis, but they never achieve basic reading skills. In fact, 793 million adults – two thirds of them women – lack basic reading and writing skills according to the latest data from UNESCO. Poorly literate individuals make less income, are more likely to get ill, and less likely to participate in democratic processes (you can find out more from LitWorld, the organization that sponsors World Read Aloud Day). All this lends support to the theory that investing in books rather than bombs in troubled areas abroad will likely do far more good in the long run. But, I’ll get off my soap box now…
What does all this have to do with Spider-Man? Recently I’ve noticed a shift in library books lying around my home and it directly correlates with the fact that my four year old son has been going to the library without me to freely check out whatever books he chooses (before you call social services, I’m not sending him alone to the library—his after school babysitter is taking him). As he started coming home with piles of books about comic book superheros, Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, Ningajos, and Thomas the Tank Engine—it became obvious to me how much I had been guiding his selection of reading material in the past. When I accompany him to the library, I unconsciously steer him towards books I wanted to read. Not to say that he hasn’t enjoyed them (who wouldn’t be a fan of Jenny and the Cat Club!), but they weren’t always hits. For instance, my son never asked for repeated readings of one of last year’s picture book darlings, Last Stop on Market Street (which received both the Newbery Medal and Caldecott Honor).
As much as it pains me to read some of the books that my son has selected, I realized that I need to make more of an effort to let him choose books for himself. In case it doesn’t seem obvious, researchers have shown that there’s a solid relationship between reading often and having a choice about what you’re reading. Simply put: kids who get to read want they want read more. (More about that here in this Washington Post article). While I’m not ready to completely give up the reigns on selecting books for our daily story time, I am definitely becoming more comfortable with reading about the adventures of Spider-Man, Hawkeye, Whiplash and the rest of his ilk. In fact, I’m rather enjoying the 5 Minute Marvel Stories we are currently reading. Although I may continue to discreetly slide Thomas books underneath the couch cushion until our next trip to the library.