Sharing Our Enthusiasm for Reading
NEA President Reg Weaver
I have always believed that attitudes aren’t taught, they’re caught. If an adult shares her enthusiasm for reading with a child, then that child catches it, and becomes an enthusiastic reader too.
And it’s that time of year again. The Cat in the Hat hats are being brushed off. The recommended reading lists are being prepped. And the celebrity readers are being rounded up. NEA’s Read Across America is coming!
On Dr. Seuss’s birthday, March 2, NEA will celebrate reading nationwide—for the ninth straight year. This year for Read Across America, NEA has a special mission, leading a national book drive for Gulf Coast schools
devastated by the recent hurricanes. NEA and its Read Across America partner organizations will raise funds and collect books for schools severely impacted by the hurricanes, and NEA leaders will visit the Gulf Coast during Read Across week. You’ll find more information at www.nea.org/readacross.
NEA’s Read Across America is all about our sharing our enthusiasm for reading with kids. And NEA’s Read Across America is ever-evolving! Read Across America is no longer a one day celebration, but a yearlong event that helps teachers, education support professionals, and parents help children and students become enthusiastic and skilled readers. We now make available a trove of reading materials you can use when connecting with students, families, and communities, whatever day it might be. Check out www.nea.org/readacross.
NEA also has joined forces with Youth Service America to create Youth Leaders for Literacy. We’re awarding 20 grants of $500 each to student-led reading initiatives, tapping into the creativity and enthusiasm of students.
Clearly, Team NEA is not resting. We are not standing still. Promoting reading is a constant challenge. These days books must compete with television, videogames, and iPods for children’s attention. And while you, our members, tell us that progress has been made in improving the reading prowess of the nation’s K–12 students, the advance has been too slow to satisfy you. Our students can and will do better.
NEA sees improved reading as essential to closing the achievement gaps among certain groups of students.
Children must learn to read so that they can read to learn. Some children start the first grade knowing how to read. But other children come to school not even knowing the alphabet or how to write their names. These children begin on unequal footing. And it is difficult to correct the inequity. As the National Academy of Sciences noted in its report Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children: “Research consistently shows that children who get off to a good start in reading rarely stumble. Those who fall behind tend to stay behind for the rest of their academic lives.”
NEA wants to see every child starting the first grade not only raring to go, but ready to go. Parents play a vital role in this, of course. Parents who read regularly to their child, starting at a very early age, and discuss with the child what they’ve read, prime their child for school and a lifetime of learning.
What’s more, research shows that children who attend preschool and kindergarten, taught by certified professionals, are far more likely to be ready for first grade than those who do not. Every child in America should have access to free preschool and kindergarten.
NEA also wants to see that the children who fall behind in reading get the remedial help they need, even if they are in middle school or high school. We believe every child and young person can learn to read and read well—and we cannot be accepting of even one student leaving high school without being fully and functionally literate.
Make no mistake about it, Team NEA is the number one enthusiast for reading in America—and Read Across America 2006 will be the best one yet!