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'Reading can take you anywhere'

Posted by David Mehegan  November 21, 2007 02:12 PM

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The email has been heavy on Monday's story about "To Read or Not to Read," the new report from the National Endowment for the Arts, which found that reading for pleasure has fallen greatly among the young, along with reading ability. Much of the response is from teachers and librarians, a few parents, and one student, most of them giving their own diagnoses of, and sometimes solutions to, the problem. A few examples:

From a parent:

"Being part of a family that reads, and having a daughter who is also a reader, I agree that it is disturbing that young people are not reading. I like to think that being able to do research on Alzheimer's, as my daughter does, is partially a result of lifelong reading, comprehension and being able to write well.

"As far as young people insisting that reading material be 'relevant' to their life -- you do not grow vocabulary, perseverance, or new knowledge by only reading what is 'relevant' or what you like. I read my share of books I hated in high school/college and now graduate school but if nothing else it enabled me to stick with a book, finish it, and make known that I understood it."

From a teacher:

"I have struggled to come up with ways to not only educate my students in the area of Reading Comprehension (since this is critical if they are to pass MCAS), but to also foster a true love of reading. After much trial and error, I discovered a series of books -- complete with study guides -- that are set in an inner-city high school in California. The subjects range from domestic violence, drugs, and guns, to family responsibility and finding your true worth; these books really capture the attention of my students. My point is that as teachers, librarians, parents, etc., we need to look beyond the classics and discover books that are of high interest and appropriately leveled so that students feel empowered to read and comprehend."

From a school librarian:

"I believe the decline is due to the fact that school libraries across the nation are being closed and/or are staffed by untrained parent volunteers or paraprofessionals. As a result, there are no trained professionals to encourage students to read or to help those who are disinclined to read. I strongly feel that if school libraries, staffed by trained professionals with their MLS degrees, were once again part of the American fabric in schools that the reading crisis currently being seen in the U.S. would be on the decline."

And from a young reader:

"I am a teenager who read your article on how we as teenagers aren't reading nowadays. But I do not think that is true. I read practicallly every day and if it's not a book, then a newspaper, and if not that, a magazine. I went to Barnes and Noble last night to get another new book for my collection. Reading is a wonderful thing that was made for everyone. I think that people as a whole (including teens) should really give reading a chance instead of IM/texting or watching too much television. Reading can take you anywhere and I learned that a long time ago, because there's more to life then what's on the next episode of 'Gossip Girl.'"

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About off the shelf News about books, authors, and publishers from The Boston Globe.
Nicole Lamy is editor of the Globe's Books section.
Jan Gardner writes the "Shelf Life" column for the Globe's Books section.

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