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Parents can help us build nation of readers

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Mary Bell
February 22, 2010

As an English teacher and avid reader, I know a book is so much more than just a book. It’s a gateway into another world, an escape, an eye-opening experience.


Of course, it sometimes also serves as a desktop, chair, or (especially with younger students) a building block.


I was told recently about a student who made a castle out of stacked books in his classroom during indoor recess. He begged to keep the structure in place for parent-teacher conferences that night, so his parents could admire it. His teacher obliged, but the next day deconstruction commenced.


The teacher explained that just as the books built a great castle he could see on the outside, its pages could build great ideas inside of his mind. But first he had to open them.


These days, reading can take many forms. Recently, I saw a high school student with earphones in, head down and eyes glazed in an expression familiar to most teachers and parents. When she looked up, I asked what group she was listening to. Turns out, she was checking out an audio book she’d downloaded.


Between the Kindle and the Nook and the iPad, it’s hard to keep up with what’s new in reading today. But what is inspiring is that, while the technology of reading may be rapidly changing, Wisconsin educators are embracing it, if it connects with their students and helps them become readers.


Ask any teacher or education support professional, and you’ll hear the reason: If we can get students reading, they have a better shot at succeeding.


On March 2, the Wisconsin Education Association Council will celebrate reading and the birthday of Dr. Seuss through the National Education Association’s Read Across America. It’s a terrific time for parents to recommit themselves to the simple act of reading to their children every day, and for educators, community members and business leaders to find ways to support reading in their communities.


On behalf of our state’s largest union of educators, I encourage you to contact your local school to ask how you can take part in your community’s Read Across America celebration.


Technology may change, but the importance of reading remains the same. We must all work together to build a nation of readers. With each page turned, whether by hand, by mouse click or by voice-activated control, we’re building a nation of readers.


Mary Bell is president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council the state’s largest teachers union. She has 29 years of experience as a library media specialist and English teacher. Learn more at weac.org or write to her at WEAC, 33 Nob Hill Road, Madison, WI 53713.

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