Alyssa is an avid reader, writer, and coffee enthusiast. She loves sharing thoughts, ideas, and creative writings with the world.
March 2nd Is Read Across America Day. March Is National Reading Month.
Last year I wrote a wonderful piece explaining 10 ways to celebrate Read Across America Day. First established by The National Education Association in 1998, it served two purposes: to honor the beloved Dr. Seuss on his birthday and to get children excited about reading. In fact, the entire month of March is designated as National Reading Month in the United States.
As someone who loves to read and is willing push all responsibilities to the side in order to devour a brand new novel by a favorite author, this day is near and dear to my heart. I've always loved reading and as a kid, I would grab a few books to take with me outside. I never wanted to play on the swing set, I wanted to spend my summer days getting a tan while I lived various lives in fantastical worlds. Of course, all of that was back in the 90's before I was allowed on the internet. Did anyone else look forward to Scholastic Book Fair week at school? I have fond memories of walking through the shelves set up in the hallway, carefully selecting a few books to purchase. That was always more fun than being given a flyer to take home, only to have to wait several agonizing weeks until the books arrived.
As a parent, one of my favorite activities was having story time with my son. Reading with your kids, especially when they are young, is valuable time spent. Children can learn valuable life lessons, increase their vocabulary, sharpen listening skills, and develop a love for life-long learning. When my son was little and we lived in the city, we would walk to the library a few times a week. He was allowed to pick out a few books, and we would often attend fun events and programs the library offered.
These days, life looks a little different. Out in the suburbs, it isn't feasible to walk to the library and we don't always have the time to drive there. Instead, we've embraced the convenience of technology, utilizing the free OverDrive App to check out ebooks from our local libraries. It's wonderful!
I wasn't planning on writing a part 2 on this topic, but recent events have inspired me. Below are five ways to celebrate reading all year long. These are also great enrichment activities for those who have children enrolled in an online school or for those who are still experiencing bouts of remote learning.
1. Check Out The Banned Books List
I'm going to tackle this right out of the gate. In January, the internet was abuzz with news about school districts across the country banning books. I woke up one morning to find To Kill A Mockingbird and Maus as trending topics on Twitter. Once I realized why they were trending, I immediately secured a copy of Maus for myself. I read To Kill A Mockingbird and watched the movie in 8th grade, so I rolled my eyes at the reasoning behind the ban. My son is currently in 8th grade and while that book is not a part of his curriculum, I've already planned for him to read it this spring once his lessons are completed. Maus is a different story though. This was a book I'd never heard of and I was curious. Realizing it was a comic, it made sense why I never came across it. Comic books were never my thing. I sat down the evening of downloading it, and was immediately pulled in to the story. I finished it in one sitting, remarkable considering I kept getting up to share bits with my husband. I thoroughly enjoyed Maus and have plans on sharing it with my son in a few years.
Has no one realized that banning books only results in the direct opposite of what was originally intended? I always try to find the positive and, in this case, I think banning books helps expose people to ideas and stories that they otherwise never would have known about. It also sparks important conversations.
The books mentioned above can be difficult to digest, but that's the point. History isn't pretty. It doesn't wrap you in a warm hug and won't tell you that it's all going to be okay. But how can we expect to move forward and make progress as a society if we don't learn from the mistakes of the past? Books like these are important for everyone to read. They dive deep, strip it down, and lay it bare for all the world to see. Harper Lee may have been writing fiction, but it's an accurate picture of life in the south during that time period. Art Spiegelman was sharing his father's harrowing experience in one of humanity's darkest moments.
To celebrate Read Across America Day, I encourage you to look up and read books that are banned. The American Library Association has numerous lists of banned and challenged books. After reading, share them with your children and have those important conversations.
When books are run out of school classrooms and libraries, I'm never much disturbed. Not as a citizen, not as a writer, not even as a schoolteacher which I used to be. What I tell kids is, don't get mad, get even. Don't spend time waving signs or carrying petitions around the neighborhood. Instead, run, don't walk, to the nearest non-school library or the local bookstore and get whatever it was that they banned. Read whatever they're trying to keep out of your eyes and your brain, because that's exactly what you need to know.
2. Start Or Join A Book Club
There's nothing better than sharing a good book with a friend. Find book clubs in your area for yourself and the kids or start one instead! You could choose to meet in person, or you could easily create a Facebook group where everyone could chat. The possibilities are endless.
HOW TO START A BOOK CLUB- FREE RESOURCES AND IDEAS - Our House
3. Create A Reading Nook
Set up a dedicated spot in your home for reading. It could be a corner of the living room or family room. Alternatively, you might help your kids set up a spot in their rooms. Make it cozy and inviting with plenty of pillows, blankets, and cushions. Use what you have on hand, repurpose and breathe life into old items, or purchase a few new pieces. Having an area designated for reading will get everyone excited to open those books and explore new worlds.
4. The Book vs. The Movie
Is there anything more frustrating than getting excited about a movie based on a favorite book and the movie is a complete disappointment? Some movies wonderfully represent the books they are based on, but others fall several feet short. To celebrate National Reading Month, make it a point to read books that have movie counterparts. Have your children spot the differences between the two and answer the age-old question: Which was better, the book or the movie?
When the Book is Better than the Movie (Feat. Lindsay Ellis) | It's Lit!
5. Organize A Free Library
Several years ago, my son had a field trip at Salt Fork State Park in Ohio. It's one of my favorites and we had a blast! On our way back home, we stopped at Dillion State Park. I was delighted to see a stand set up with a sign that read Free Library. The enclosed case had glass doors and I could see the shelves filled with old books. I thought it was so neat!
Why not get your neighbors together to celebrate reading by organizing a free community library? Pick a spot that will be easily accessible and be sure to ask permission as required and necessary. Put a little stand up with plenty of old books. You could add a sign asking people to donate books as they take them, a 'book for book' idea if you will. Freelibrary.org is a wonderful site to help you get started.