Reading rights belong to all children
By Guest Blogger on February 27th, 2012
Today, we welcome a special post from Pam Allyn, a Scholastic author and literacy expert and advocate, and the founder of LitWorld. Her beautiful words below are a reminder to us all of the importance of reading — and, in particular, of reading aloud to young people. World Read Aloud Day is March 7, 2012 — and you can join in. Find out how below.
I have had the great pleasure of reading to children all over the world, and everywhere and always children’s responses to the power of a great book read aloud are profound. Children who have suffered immense hardship burst into peals of joyous laughter listening to Clifford the Big Red Dog, grip my hand tight when we come to the intense moments with Snape in Harry Potter, beam with delight when Mrs. Frizzle pops on the scene. In their open faces I see so much potential; the potential for happiness, for hope, for the sunshine in a world with lots of laughter. It is nothing short of a miracle to see how the magic of a great book can open the door for a child to envision her future in a new way. By sharing our love of reading with a child, we are able to pass on a most sacred and valuable asset for leading a full and happy life.
There has never been a more urgent time than now for Scholastic’s “Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life.” campaign. In The Reading Bill of Rights, Richard Robinson, the CEO of Scholastic and a great literacy advocate and leader and personal hero of mine, affirms that “reading has never been more important, for we know that for young people the ability to read is the door opener to the 21st century: to hold a job, to understand their world, and to know themselves.” Reading rights are rights that belong to all children, to all people. And research has shown that the power of reading aloud to a child is immense, significant and life changing. When an adult reads aloud to a child, both can experience the joy of literacy together. The child can clearly see and model his life upon the impact of a reading role model. The child can listen to and absorb language at much higher levels than he can when navigating print on his own. He is “accompanied” in his learning literacy journey by a caring adult.
Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life. is all about how we help children to see the power of literacy as a forever tool that will open up worlds, worlds of information, of inspiration, of hope, of laughter. Our lives are all richer for reading for it is indeed a transactional experience: between text, reader and self. By reading, we become more self reliant and also at the same time we become more fully and deeply part of a community of readers and learners.
I carry with me the stories my mother told me. The stories she read and the experience of sitting close and sharing those moments with her have become a part of my story, much like the stories I then shared with my daughters have become a part of theirs. When I began reading to boys and girls in foster care, older teens who had been through so much hardship in their young lives, I was deeply struck by how, no matter what their ages, they so hungered for and loved the sound of a warm and loving voice paired with the wonder of a story. Even the most resistant, reluctant, wounded and angry teenagers melt when the book opens and the read aloud begins. The layers of resistance that have built hard and strong shells around the child begin to fall away and we can see right through into the child’s soul. The book does magical things in giving every child back an opportunity to experience childhood as it is meant to be. The secret is that read aloud voice is not a judging voice, it is instead a voice which creates community. And we all have that voice within us, whether we are teachers, parents, grandparents or members of a community who all share the power of Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life.
The Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life. campaign is not only about what we can give to others through reading but what that giving gives back to each of us: the discovery of that voice within us that is abundant, joyous and radiant to the beauty of stories and the magic of sharing them. The children too teach me through their responses many new ways of seeing stories and understanding poems, learning about animals and the history of the world, traveling new roads together and becoming richer for it all. The Reading Bill of Rights asserts” that in the 21st century, the ability to read is necessary not only to succeed but to survive—for the ability to understand information and the power of stories is the key to a life of purpose and meaning.” Without these joyous reading experiences of deepening understanding, we miss out on so much of today’s world.
World Read Aloud Day, created by my organization LitWorld and celebrated this year on March 7th, is a powerful way to celebrate and expand the impact of Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life. with a community of open readers, listeners and advocates for the power of reading. On this day we all follow Mr. Robinson’s example to campaign for the rights of every child to read and everyone passes along the message of what reading can do to help us all deepen and enrich our lives. Let’s join together on March 7th, reading together for better lives for all, and honoring the power of stories and words to bring us together.
Actions for World Read Aloud Day:
- Have a Book Swap Bash and read aloud to each other
- Find a group of children, donate some books and stay awhile to read them together
- Host a Read Aloud Salon with your friends and bring short pieces to read that make peoplelaugh
- Get your school to celebrate by reading aloud together and then have the children read and sign a copy of the Reading Bill of Rights to send to your local, state and national congresspeople
- Make sure on this day you read to your own family or loved ones or find a new friend to read to!
- Stop by litworld.org to see how you can connect worldwide to spread the message of global literacy on World Read Aloud Day
- Stop by scholastic.com to become part of the global literacy campaign ReadEvery Day. Lead a Better Life…and let’s get this movement rocking!
Finally, on World Read Aloud Day itself — March 7, 2012 — join me on Scholastic’s Facebook page from 4pm ET to 4:45pm as I host a live chat — live from The Scholastic Store! I’ll be answering your questions, offering prompts and ideas of my own, and talking about my tips and experiences reading aloud to kids. And, join the conversation on Twitter with #readaloud and by following us on @litworldsays.