Tuesday, January 08, 2008

One More Reason to Resolve the Writers' Strike

We've all heard the old maxim, "Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime." My response usually is something along the lines of: "That's fine for you, but I live nowhere near fishable waters?" (Yes, I am a smart ass, why do you ask?)

What does that have to do with the state of children's literature? Well, the Librarian of Congress, James Billingon, has created a new post: National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Anyone who has read this blog o'mine should be aware that I'm all in favor of encouraging young people to read. Indeed, I think it's one of many things that are crucial to our future (among the others, teaching math and science -- especially to girls).

Jon Scieszka (pronounced SHEH-ska) has been given this noble task. And his mission is to convert young people into readers. This is where that desert idea comes in. I hope to be convinced otherwise, but I suspect strongly that just as parents in desert areas become parents to children who know little of life outside of the desert, so too with parents who don't read -- their children will not be readers. Trying to get these children to develop a love for literature is the challenge of a lifetime, and I wish Mr. Scieszka well. He'll need a lot of help.

“There’s a huge population of kids who would be or can be readers, but just choose not to,” said Mr. Scieszka, who runs a Web-based literacy program aimed at boys called Guys Read. “Kids see it just as a school activity or something that just can’t compete with a Nintendo Wii or just hanging out and text messaging your friends. Parents and booksellers and teachers are dying for some help.”

What gives me hope here is that the folks who selected Scieszka realized they needed to find someone who could speak with commentators who literate folks listen to, like Jon Stewart of A Daily Show (I'm not sure why they changed the name this week, though I assume it has something to do with the writers' strike.

There's hope for the future of reading. Come on kids, let's go to the beach. Get your rod and reel.

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