I’ve always loved reading; it gives me an escape into a world that’s not my own, such as the factions in Divergent or the Massachusetts island in We Were Liars. It doesn’t really matter where the book takes me, as long as it gives me a break from reality. I believe that my love for reading and my desire to be an educator go hand in hand. Growing up, I played school with my siblings, and of course I was the teacher. I would drag out a notebook and a pen or pencil, forcing my brothers to listen to my lessons about who knows what. I don’t remember these “school sessions” lasting very long, but I do remember loving the idea of teaching. I guess I’ve always considered becoming a teacher.
At one point, my mom even asked me, the eager beaver, to help one of my brothers become more literate. I was excited to help. After all, reading and teaching seemed to be right up my alley! But trying to get him to enjoy reading and work harder at becoming a better reader was like pulling a crocodile’s teeth—frustrating and tedious and, dare I say, a little dangerous.Rather than take the time to leaf through pages of words and imagine worlds unknown to man, my brothers would watch YouTube videos. Most students have been forced to consume sophisticated literature in school, whether that was Johnny Tremain, A Tale of Two Cities, or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Personally, if I’m required to read a book, I immediately hate the idea of reading, no matter the book.
But I love picking up a book and reading it for fun. Book shopping is one of my favorite hobbies! No, seriously. Look at my bank account. I’m pretty sure the books are holding my debit card hostage. Apparently, pleasure reading and book shopping aren’t widely appreciated hobbies in the United States. This concept truly hit me for the first time when I was taking Foundations of Reading for Middle School and High School, a sophomore level education class.
I walked into class one day after having read the assigned reading for homework the night before. Ironically, I hadn’t really absorbed what I’d read. On a particular day we had group discussions researching literacy topics, and one of the resources we could use was our textbook. This research unearthed some shocking statistics. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the exact statistics that were in the textbook, but I found similar statistics online that are just as shocking. Literacy Inc., a website dedicated to literacy, says of all the high school graduates in the United States, 33 percent never read a book after graduating. Not only that, but only a small percentage of adults continue to peruse bookstores.
After hearing these statistics, I was, and still am, baffled. My English education major, literature-absorbing brain cannot comprehend how a person just doesn’t enjoy reading. It hit me that I must work hard to encourage my future students to enjoy reading; however, my job doesn’t stop with igniting a passion for reading in my students. When I assign a reading assignment, I must be prepared to help each student work through any difficulty he or she has when reading.
The thing is that literacy is so complex. The more a person reads, the better they become at reading. In fact, I have a friend who hasn’t really been a fan of reading until recently. They aren’t a fast reader, but they haven’t let that stop them in the last couple of weeks. Consequently, they are looking for books to read and enjoying them in the process of overcoming their reading struggles. The sad thing is that so many children in the United States lack access to literature. Yes, you read that right. This happens in the United States.
I know I’m a rare breed, as are all my fellow English education majors. We wouldn’t be pursuing a degree entirely dedicated to teaching a language if we didn’t care about reading and studying it. So, what about everyone else? The outliers, if you will. The ones who don’t enjoy reading and think, “So what if only a small percentage of the population picks up a book after high school?” Literacy affects almost every aspect of life. It affects those who are pursuing higher education, no matter the program of study. It touches the lives of businessmen and women who are reading contracts. Literacy even affects musicians. Crazy, right? Being able to read and comprehend words in a book or the note on a page is crucial to society’s success.