BooksOpinion

The Power of Read Across America Day

Anahita Padmanabhan ’18/Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

March 2nd was the beloved children’s book author, Dr. Seuss’s, birthday, and it was also Read Across America Day. The National Education Association, or the NEA, started this day of reading and inspiring children to become more avid readers in hopes of increasing the literacy rates in America. NEA’s FAQ section on their website gives more information about the day, the significance of it, and their goals. According to the site, Read Across America Day was started in 1998 when the NEA felt that young students should get as excited to read as they do for any other event in their lives.

Read Across America Day is an important day in contributing that. The NEA travels around the country setting up events for the school day. This past Read Across America day celebrates Dr. Seuss’s 111th birthday. The day has 45 million participating parties, making it the largest reading day in the nation. It is clear that the NEA has been able to achieve their goal. They have gotten results, and it has become so popular, that the day has become something children look forward to now.

Screencap of Suessville, a learning website. Credit: Random House
Screencap of Suessville, a learning website. Credit: Random House

This year, Read Across America Day meant more than just reading. This year, the NEA promoted the start of “Kid, You’ll Move Mountains,” a program that searches for kids, ages five to eighteen, who excel in science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or STEAM. By having this, the NEA has made this day about excelling as a student, and not just in one area. The new program promotes connecting STEAM with reading, strengthening all around education.

On the same FAQ page, the NEA has facts about child literacy in America that highlight the significance of the day. Reading is so important for kids, and it is a necessary skill to survive in our society. If kids do not learn to read at a young age, or if their interest in reading is low, that will carry it through their life. Those kids who read at a low level, will tend to stay at a low literacy rate for their entire life. In 2012, 14% of adults over the age of 16 read at or below a fifth grade level, and 29% read at an eighth grade level. To add to that, 43% of those with the lowest literacy rates live in poverty. It’s these kinds of statistics that made the NEA want to create a day dedicated to promoting reading. In 2012, more than half the country’s schools with reported child literacy rates have rates of 95% or higher.

Read Across America has been going strong for seventeen years now. It has grown, adapted, and become a beloved day for schools, teachers, and more importantly children. Getting children excited to read is one of the most important things we can do as a society. We need more children who want to read. Being better readers is connected with doing better in school.

Read Across America 2012. Photo credit: Thomas Bricker

On March 15th an English teacher in Maine received a $1 million award from the Varkey Foundation which recognizes teachers for making outstanding contributions to their profession. Nancie Atwell got her students to read an average of forty books a year. She put libraries in every single classroom making reading more accessible at any given time to the students. While these students are also on a more literary track within the school (many have gone on to become authors), the point remains that students need to read more.

What the NEA is attempting to do, is to get students to go beyond their school assigned books, and pick up a book in their free time. The more that children read, the more that they get exposed to diversity, new ideas, and new thoughts. Reading is a way to expand knowledge. We associate the term “well-read” with being educated and knowledgable. Why wouldn’t we want our society to become better readers?

Every time a child reads a book, they become one step closer to getting ahead in school. Reading aloud to children regularly makes them more likely to read on their own; it makes them more likely to write their own name earlier; it also makes them more likely to recognize words and letters before those who aren’t read aloud to. The more our kids read, the smarter they become. It is a fact that the NEA has proven.

Every book has something to offer: whether it is a non fiction book, where children can learn facts; a historical book, where they can learn about events; or a fiction book, where they can learn to expand their imagination. Every book a child reads makes a difference. Read Across America Day is so important because it recognizes this fact. It recognizes that we need to read.

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