In my eyes, reading has acquired a very small negative association with the younger age groups. Being cool is the priority of the younger generations because it is the method of fitting in. I cannot say everyone, but the majority of the population wants to have the latest technology; which has implicated the idea of films, video games, mp3 players, and the internet as the main sources of entertainment. Although, technology has provided society with devices dedicated to the function of reading, the audiences targeted through the advertisements have been adults.
Unfortunately, reading has not been classified as being cool in these younger generations. There are many factors that contribute to this issue – one of many is there are people who do not enjoy reading.One can not directly associate the lack of enjoyment to reading being “un-cool”.
An aspect that I believe does add to the negative association is: those who do like reading tend to be viewed, by societal definitions, as nerds, dorks, or geeks.
If one is to search for the definition of these three terms there is one common aspect to them as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary; “a person who behaves awkwardly around other people and usually has unstylish clothes, hair, etc”. This is the simple definition of a dork, but there is a little more to a nerd and a geek.
A nerd is “a person who is very interested in technical subjects, computers, etc” (Merriam-Webster).
A geek is one who is “very interested in and knows a lot about a particular field or activity” making them appear above intelligent than the majority of society. (Merriam-Webster)
I am proud to say that I will read whenever I have the time to. I will admit some of the readings that are assigned to me are not as entertaining as ones I have discovered on my own, but there have been many books that I have enjoyed a great deal reading throughout my grade school career. And if this makes me a nerd in today’s society, than be it, but I must say that none of these three terms involve a straight connection to reading. A geek could be considered as an individual who reads all the time because information can be gathered from books at the library, but in today’s world, there are many more media forms that one can obtain information about a certain topic. So, let us begin to disassociate a passion for reading with the terms dork, geek, or nerd.
We as teachers can begin with the use of new media forms to engage students to read stories. Stories began as narratives, being passed from generation through generation. They soon began to be written down. Now we can achieve access to stories online. Stories do not stop there. Films, operas, theatre productions and even music tell a story. Classical music is thought to be related as high-end society entertainment, but the composers are telling a story that anyone can unravel. All that is necessary is imagination and listening skills. Each person will have a different interpretation of the piece and that is okay because much like a written story, the reader has his/her own perspective on what was told.
Knowing these media outlets, there are connections that can be made with the stories being read. Activities can be implemented that go along with a scene or lesson in the story, or there can be a film that was made based on the book that can be compared and contrasted with the original text to deepen the meaning of the story. If there is a certain topic that the students appear to be more interested in, then take some time to implement that into your plans. Keeping the students’ curiosity vibrant will make engaging them easier. In the long run, it may not be so easy for you in planning, but it will be worth the extra effort seeing students engaged and succeeding.
One also has to remember that a story does not just have to be fiction, it can also be non-fiction. We are each writing a story just by living our lives. Stories can be short or long, the length does not matter, what does is the connections that can be built from sharing stories. These connections can strengthen a community, they can provide guidance, give an explanation to how things work, or just provide entertainment.
If one reads then one can understand the meaning of the letters, but one is also making one’s brain work in using its imagination to create images from the text. With reading, one can travel to a different world without moving. This is true of writing the story, watching a film or television show, so I should not limit it to reading. These forms of media provide an escape from the everyday life to one in which anything is possible (to create and imagine).
Encourage the students to read by having a library in the classroom – it does not have to be a huge area, a simple bookshelf (short enough for students to reach all the shelves) with books of varying lengths and levels will do. Make the reading as relevant as it can to encourage the connections with their lives to deepen the passion of reading. Introduce new books every so often. Like it was mentioned by Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelley in Reading in the Wild, spice the excitement of the new book by having a lottery to see who will be the first student to read the book. A fair method so anyone interested in the book has a chance to read it. Something else may be to present awards after reading certain amount of books. Most importantly, share your passion of reading with the students. Provide class time for reading independently, with groups or as a class. My suggestion if doing independent reading would be to read a book yourself while they read theirs. When reading aloud, have props once in a while and use voice imitations to make it fun and not monotone. This will keep the students engaged and in anticipation of what will happen next. Be sure to switch the length and topics of the books so that all the students will have something to relate to every so often and the books will not drag out too long that the students will lose interest (Miller & Kelley).