Saturday, October 8, 2016

Yes Virginia, it's Teen Read Week

Yes, it's always some kind of week, and yes, it should be every week, but THIS week is Teen Read Week, which makes it all official.

I say this because of all the mother's laments I heard and added to when my son Josh was growing up. As a small child he always wanted me to read to him and I did; but as he got older and more influenced by television and movies, the harder it was to get him to read at all.

I remember trying to get him to open The Sword in the Stone and him refusing unless I read it to him. Rightly or wrongly, I did, and was at least glad to see he liked the book. Friends told me they spent a lot of time nagging their kids to read books, too, and no one gender had anything over the other.

By the time Josh started going to school, the teachers were more insistent, and he brought home some interesting books. Because they felt he was having trouble with reading, my son was assigned a special reading teacher who gave him James and the Giant Peach. I think she must have been an amazing teacher because she picked up immediately on the kind of book my son would like.

Just another reason to love teachers, I guess.

As he got older, Josh started reading more about World War II and historical subjects. As a teen he didn't read much and I started thinking of him as a teenage Rocky, because most of what he liked to do involved boxing and sports. If it wasn't for his coaches insisting on good grades in school, I don't know that Josh would have been reading at all.

A few months into college, I went to visit my son and was shocked at the metamorphosis. He had gone from an inarticulate and socially awkward boy-man to a young man that was interested in the world and used real vocabulary. I don't really know what happened, but I'm glad it did.

I still think about the high school years though, and wish we'd been able to have more conversations about books. I know there are all kinds of arguments for reading, but the best one I can think of is it creates a way of thinking you can't get from TV or a film or even watching a play. You can't explain it to someone unless they do it, but reading allows the imagination a kind of free play that you, as the reader control. And that's very different from the way you're spoon fed with most other media.

So... I hope you'll figure out a way to celebrate Teen Read Week -- either at your local library or bookstore - or by giving your teen a gift certificate to buy books online. If you're a teen and want to learn more, try this website.

Better yet... try a book.