You’ve got to be a reader to raise a reader: My take on recent research on teens and reading

Common Sense Media recently issued a report about kids and teens and their reading habits. The four principal findings (I’m going to quote CSN directly) were these:

  1. Reading rates have dropped precipitously among adolescents.
  2. Reading achievement among older teens has stagnated.
  3. There’s a persistent gap in reading scores between white, black, and Latino kids.
  4. There’s also a gender gap in reading across ages.

The NY Times and NPR are both aghast at the findings, but their responses focused more on the problem — and how it has arisen — than on solutions. Common Sense Media itself has offered several strategies to increase reading, but I’m going to suggest my own. Continue reading

Home decorating with bibliophiles: what your books say about you

Yesterday’s L.A. Times had a wonderful article by book critic David Ulin about his book collecting habits. His home is packed floor to ceiling with shelves and shelves of books. Periodically, he arranges them in alphabetical order.

Ulin shares many reasons for his enormous book collection. Here’s his chief one:

They are part of my present, yes, but also part of my past, my history: three-dimensional memories.

Among their appeals is that they opened up a world view, which is what the most essential writing does. Yet equally important is their resonance as objects, carried with me, shelf to shelf, apartment to apartment, over decades, physical reminders of who I was and who I am and of my process of becoming, blurring the line between inside and out.

This led me to think about what the Klempner family book collection means about us.

  • World view – Klempner adults are cheapskates. We love borrowing from libraries more than buying books. We still have a lot of books, but not relative to the amount of reading that goes on around here. Most of the books we actually own are Jewish books, especially for adults–books of prayer, Torah, character-building, and so on. The secular adult books we own are mostly practical.
  • Life history – You can see what my husband learned in classes ten or fifteen years ago by checking which volumes of the Gemara we own. You can tell I studied anthropology in graduate school and that one of us reads French (speaking is another matter…). You can tell we’re both teachers, and that we’re the kind of parents that like to read a lot about how to parent. On the kids’ shelves, you can track all of my eldest child’s special interests since age 5.

What do your books say about you?

Library Love – Bibliophiles and the places they frequent

father and son in the library

Hey, kiddo! Do you really need this one, to? Good thing I don’t have to pay for all of these.

When I was a teenager, I lived across the street from the library. I did homework there, typed most of my college applications on their noisy electric typewriter (10 cents for each 15 minutes, I think), and perused the shelves for hours on end. I’d already developed a taste for books by that age, but there’s no doubt in my mind that my family’s proximity to the library solidified my attachment to books, reading, and libraries, in general.

Now that I’m older, I live in a family fully of bibliophiles. We read to learn Torah. We read for entertainment; we read to learn how to do new things; we read for school assignments. We read because otherwise we’d go into withdrawal and start twitching in a dark room. Continue reading