I own a t-shirt decorated with the Edward Gorey cartoon shown above. It is black and I wear it to the YMCA* as part of my exercise togs. It engenders more comments than either of the other two black t-shirts I wear - one with a University of Iowa Hawkeyes logo and the other with a New Orleans's aquarium poison frogs design.
"What do you read?" is the most common question asked (and always by other old farts like me) and discussion ensues. I always found this curious. Why does a shirt about men reading deserve comment? Men do read. A lot of them. Me included.
Reading has always been so much a part of my life that I've never really stopped to think about the benefits. Like fresh air, clean water, and good health, an engaging book has always just been present. Lucky me. In Why we all need books: The benefits of reading for pleasure, Baroness Gail Rebuck, reports (and if you can't believe a baroness, just who can you believe?) that:
Adults who spend just 30 minutes a week reading are 20 per cent more likely to be satisfied with their lives.
Amongst the many benefits experienced by regular readers were higher self-esteem and greater self-acceptance.
... reading, although paradoxically a solitary activity, actually helps us feel less isolated.
One in four readers say that a book has helped them realise that other people have shared their life experiences.
Readers also find it easier to make decisions and are 10 per cent more capable of planning and prioritising. ...
With just 30 minutes of reading a week, two thirds of readers report a better understanding of other people’s feelings.
Readers were also found to have a stronger and more engaged awareness of social issues and of cultural diversity than non-readers.
Regular readers reported 57 per cent greater cultural awareness and 21 per cent more general knowledge.
... readers reported higher levels of creativity than non-readers
...readers were more comfortable with strangers, reporting not only that they find it easier to start conversations but also find greater enjoyment in these interactions.
I would like every child who graduates from our school district to be a reader. Not just a proficient reader. Not just a student who has passed a reading test. But as a person who reads - for pleasure, for enlightenment, for greater satisfaction with life.
I am not sure public schools are producing readers, at least not in the sense of people who voluntarily read on a regular basis because it satisfies them.
If there is anything we as educators should be ashamed of and should cause us to lose sleep at night, it is because in the pursuit of getting kids to pass a reading test, we are killing the joy of reading.
All children should be given the opportunity to learn to love to read.
* OK, it doesn't look it, but I do hit the weight machines 2-3 times a week. Just trying to slow the deterioration...