Tomorrow is Dr. Seuss’s birthday and we’re celebrating with lots of activities at school. I’m going to dress up and my class is going to have “funny feet” in honor of “The Foot Book”. Dr. Seuss is one of those enduring authors who transcend generations. I remember reading “The Cat in the Hat” to my children, and I’m sure they’ve read it to their children. There are parts of many of his books that each of us could recite from memory. My class giggles at the same words and phrases that delighted last year’s class. There is a magic to his characters that captivates readers.
I’ve been thinking a lot about reading this week. At this time of the year many of my students can read quite well for their age. They are struggling with phonics rules and the tricky way our language borrows from other languages that “break the rules”. Try explaining to a six year old why “live” can rhyme with either “hive” or “give”. However, it isn’t their ability to read that excites me, it’s their enthusiasm for it. This is the age when we can instill a love of reading that may last a lifetime.
It’s that “may” that bothers me. Studies show that many children are struggling with reading by the fourth grade. They don’t like it, don’t want to do it, and don’t do it well. I remember devouring books in the fourth grade. I was one of those kids who read anywhere and everywhere- in a tree, back seat of the car, under the covers with a flashlight. Books were wonderful companions and an escape from the cares of the world. Still are. So why are they a chore for today’s children?
I believe there are a couple of good reasons. First of all I don’t think many parents are reading for pleasure. My husband is sitting in the living room right now, finishing a novel, even though he worked fifteen hours today. Many people of our generation take the time to read. With all of the activities, television shows, computer games, work, and family obligations that occupy the younger generation of parents, many of them simply don’t read. I’ve talked with some of my parents and they feel they are lucky to have the time to read to their children for ten minutes each night. However, children emulate their parents. If reading becomes something only done for school it loses its value.
Second, I think education is to blame. In recent years we have spent too much time teaching children to read. We haven’t spent nearly enough time making it enjoyable. That’s why I’m excited about tomorrow. I hope that we can have more celebrations of authors and books and make reading exciting for children. I don’t just want my students to know how to read- I want them to take pleasure in it. So, Happy Birthday to Dr. Seuss. Go read a book!