Whenever I see or hear about one, I tend always to pick up books on reading or how to get people interested in reading. This is a leftover habit from my public library job, where people often asked me how to get their kids to read something, or what books we might suggest for kids who hated reading.
I'm ashamed to admit, I was always REALLY BAD at answering that question.
It wasn't that I wasn't interested, or that I didn't want to help. I did. I typically went with such parents to the kids' book shelves, where we tried to figure out what their kid (who never seemed to be with them--the first problem) might enjoy. These were always totally painful encounters. The parents typically acted like they had no idea what their kids' interests might be, and they seemed completely uninterested in books themselves. They were usually only there because their kid had tested poorly on reading skills or a teacher had suggested they read more, and they typically left with the first Harry Potter book, regardless of what else I suggested.
So when I read about Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, I thought I would give it a look. I don't have too many concerns about CRjr's reading as yet--the only benchmark the boy has ever been early on is "can turn picture book pages without ripping them"--but people still do periodically ask me how to encourage reading in their children. My sole answer, and one that I now know is supported by Miller, is stated in her book as:
"My credibility with students and the reason they trut me when I recommend books to them stems from the fact that I read every day of my life and that I talk about reading constantly. I am not mandating an activity for them that I do not engage in myself. I do not promote reading to my students because it is good for them or because it is required for school success...
Findings from a 2007 Associated Press poll,reported in the Washington Post, indicate that the average adult American read only four books that entire year. This statistic does not tell the whole story; of the adults who read, their average was seven books, but 25 percent of the respondents did not read a book at all (Fram, 2007). Teachers fare no better on surveys of adult reading behaviors than the general population; in the 2004 article 'The Peter Effect,' Anthony and Mary Applegate report that of the preservice teachers whom they studied, 54.3 percent were unenthusiastic about reading." (pp. 106-107.)
And there you have it. If you don't read, and your kids' teachers don't read, they simply will not see reading as something that is done, or worth doing. It's as simple as that. Almost all the parents who asked me to find books for their kids never wandered over to the adult stacks when we were done and picked out anything for themselves; at most, they would stop at the video cart on the way out.
The book is interesting, but is told from a Language Arts teacher's point of view and has more to do with teaching strategies and tips for larger groups of children. But the paragraphs above make me trust this author--she knows what she's talking about when she says the key to reading is "walking the walk."*
*Which is not to say I think the only way kids can be happy or successful is by reading. I don't believe that at all. But if YOU think you'd like your kids to read more, YOU have to pick up a book or magazine yourself sometimes. That's all there is to it.