Friday, May 8, 2009

A Week Devoted to Children’s Books

Monday is the official start of Children’s Book Week, May 11-17, 2009, a week dedicated to children’s books.

Last year, the Children’s Book Council together with the Center for the Book (in the Library of Congress) created the position of National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and appointed Jon Scieszka. That’s right, the author of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, The Stinky Cheese Man, and most recently, Knucklehead (a memoir of his youth). As a children’s book author himself and a former schoolteacher, he is ideal. Plus, he’s very funny, as you can see from this interview I did with him. Here is his five-point plan for getting children to read, which you can print out as a bookmark:

1. Expand your definition of reading beyond fiction and novels. Lots of kids love to read non-fiction, humor, comic strips, magazines, illustrated stories, audio recordings, and websites. It’s all reading. It’s all a good way to become a reader.

2. Let kids choose reading that interests them. It may not be the reading you like, but making the choice is important to kids.

3. Be a good reading role model. Talk to your kids about how you choose what you read. Share your reading likes and dislikes. Let kids see you reading.

4. Try not to demonize TV, computer games, and new technologies. These media do compete for kids’ time, but they are not the “bad guy.” Help kids become media literate. Show them how different media tell stories in different ways.

5. Think global. Act local. There are all kinds of good people and worthy groups working to help kids read. Teachers, librarians, and booksellers are a wonderful resource. Ask them for book recommendations. Join a local literacy group.

The very first observance of Book Week (as it was called then) was organized in 1919 by Frederick Melcher, editor of what is now Publishers Weekly; Franklin K. Mathiews, founder of Boys’ Life, and the New York Public Library’s storied librarian, Anne Carroll Moore. That makes Children’s Book Week 90 years old.

Let’s celebrate! In honor of Children’s Book Week, read a book aloud to your child every day. (I’m nothing if not consistent.) Check at your local bookstore and library to see if any special events are planned. Have a great reading week!

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