With the summer sun high in the sky, most kids are dreaming of swimming, eating ice cream, and playing sports but many schools are talking about Summer Reading Lists for kids. These are lists of suggested reading by teachers, book stores, and book clubs. I would like to add to those lists.
Many lists are full of fiction and non-fiction works that encompass many genres. I believe children (and adults) can benefit from everything from anime to world history to Shakespeare. I would also suggest that children take some time to sit down and read a local newspaper. I know, you are thinking that with the Internet, who needs a paper. Well, humor me for a moment and think back to a time when that was the only source of information, besides the gossip down at the farmers market.
There was a time when whole groups would gather to hear the “Chronicle”, “Press”, or “Times” of that town read aloud. Of course, this was also a time where many Americans were illiterate. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics:
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, illiteracy was very common. In 1870, 20 percent of the entire adult population was illiterate, and 80 percent of the black population was illiterate. By 1900 the situation had improved somewhat, but still 44 percent of blacks remained illiterate.
This was before the Internet, television, or even radio. The telegraph had been around for a few years, but its messages still needed reading.
So imagine yourself wanting to know the score of a final match or who won an election and you can’t just turn on your smart phone and flick to the information by means of the World Wide Web. The answer to your conundrum would be the paper. Many kids these days may not have even held a newspaper. I know when I was one, I hated getting newsprint on my fingers, but the nostalgia was unforgettable. It was interesting to flip through the pages and fight with the creases to make it lay flat. I loved to read the comics on the living room floor while I lie on my stomach, usually eating a snack cake.
What impressed me most was reading articles by local people. These weren’t the professional columnists that live for finding that new, fresh story. These were the folk you may have met in the grocery store or were parents of one of your classmates. Stories like these were much more personal to me. It showed me that anyone could write if they just put the time into it.
I lost any interest in writing when I was young and only recently got it back. I had forgotten about the people sharing their words with their communities. I was captivated by the TV and my dated Walkman that played cassette tapes and had an FM stereo. Now kids are glued to computers, smart phones and tablets, with their flashy graphics and fun sounds. But do you personally know the developer of that app? Perhaps we need to take a moment away from our cyber world and sit back and read a local paper, preferably while drinking a tall glass of cold lemonade. You never know, you may even find a coupon for a new electronic device.