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Reading Makes You...
I purchased a shirt at a reading conference which has a picture of Lucy van Pelt from the Peanuts cartoons. Next to her smile it says "Reading Makes You Beautiful". I thought it was an awesome shirt that I could wear at the school where I was the reading coordinator. I did not anticipate the reaction I would get from some of the students I worked with. Instead of motivating all of the readers, I had some of the boys who were either reluctant or struggling readers comment like, "If reading makes you beautiful, then I must be ugly."
Rather than defending the message of the shirt, I defended the self-esteem of the boys. These boys were borrowing my books by Andy Griffiths because of title hooks like "The Day My Butt went Psycho". They kept the Calvin and Hobbs comic books from the library out in circulation because they are constantly reading them. Maybe reading doesn't make them beautiful, but it does make them something.
Reading Makes You Smart
That is what many people would answer knowing that, between the cover of many books, information and knowledge is ready to stimulate the brain. Ken Jennings did not win Jeopardy 74 times and become the most winning Jeopardy champion because he watched TV or played video games; he was an avid reader. If it wasn't novels or biographies, it was newspapers and magazines.
If individuals believe that verbal intelligence is the key to being smart, then reading will get them smarter. Research has been conducted on this topic, such as a study by Stanovich that was published in Advances in Child Development and Behavior in 1993 that addresses the question "Does Reading Make You Smarter?" Struggling readers may not always want to find what they are looking for in a book, but they will find what interests them. Textbooks, magazines, library books, and books of all kinds are the portal between knowing and not knowing. If your child still comes up to you with reading material in your hand and says, "Hey, do you know...?", then they are getting smarter for it and increasing their verbal intelligence on the topic.
Reading Makes You Funny
Comic books, joke books, silly rhymes. These are popular books by boys, especially struggling and unmotivated readers because it is a non-threatening format. They are short and easy to read, and sometimes they'll laugh because it sounds funny, not because they understand the punchline. Also, just like to books they like to check out every time, joke books are read over and over again to keep up the laughs or share laughs with someone who hasn't head it before.
Boys in particular like things that are funny and want to try to make their friends and classmates laugh. Sometimes those funny ideas come from books. What makes the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series so popular? It makes fun of kids in middle school in a light way. The stress of this moment in a boy's life is not so bad with the use of humor. Also, readers learn coping strategies with humor that can help them in their own lives.
Reading Makes You Curious
The right book will not only help readers make connections to themselves, other books, and the world, but it will also make them ask questions. The title is the hook that starts curiosity. What reader isn't curious about a title like or The Day My Butt Went Psycho . (Are you curious enough to click on the links?) Book covers are a visual hook for many readers; a struggling reader who is passionate about football may pick up a book with a player to know more about them. Background knowledge of the vocabulary and subject makes it less threatening to learn more on the topic they enjoy. They either want to know more about the subject or find out more about the meaning behind the title or cover art. The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups
Reading Makes You Young
How do you feel when you reread a book? Was it one that your parent read to you as a child or was it one that you read a few years before? My son enjoys reading his favorite books to his little sister and sharing story features and illustration secrets with her. I've been reading Farmer Boy with him and recalling how once upon a time I wanted to live and work on a farm or be a teacher in a one-room school house.
Reading fictional stories and biographies bring back memories of a childhood. Avid readers recall their favorite book, author, or genre. If it is not the actual book that brings back the memory, it is the person who connected them to the book. My older sisters shared their Laura Ingalls Wilder books with me. Even my first romance novels came from their secret stash under their beds. Teachers and librarians can be credited for introducing a book that impacts the reader for the rest of their life.
Students will go back to familiar text and it will bring them back to a younger time in their reading life. The youngest reader will go back to familiar characters that remind them of kindergarten while older readers will read at their interest level and recall a story they read years before. Rereading improves fluency but it is also a compliment to the author who crafted the story.
Reading Makes You Alive
We live in a world that demands a level of literacy in order to live and survive. Memos, signs, contracts, and other written documents are reading requirements for the adults. Video games, homework, magazines, and enjoyable books are common reminders that reading is a part of the lives of a child. The struggle of reading can make it difficult to find pleasure in it all, and coping skills make it possible to get around some needs to read.
Reading makes you become something, makes you feel something. If it is not survival to be able to finish your tasks for the day, it is the information and connections we make that make us stop and think, or smile, or imagine. The questions we ask or the answers we find are a part of the reading experience. Struggling and unmotivated readers are still a part of that experience. Teachers, librarians, and parents can help them connect with the books that they can read, understand, and enjoy.
As for my reluctant reader boys? Reading made them high school graduates and more curious about the world around them.