Lynn Hummel: I remember the faces of the winners
I don’t know their names, but I remember their faces. They’re winners. They will demonstrate that they are winners in September, when school starts, and if they keep doing what they’re doing now, they’ll keep on being winners.
I’ve been working on a project that took me to the public library often during the summer of 2013. I liked what I saw in the reading room. Every day I saw mothers and dads bringing their kids, all the way from about 4 - 12 years old, to the library to select books for summer reading. Older kids came by themselves, some guided their younger brothers and sisters through the selections. Thursday was kids’ day and they were all over the place.
These kids will hit their classrooms going full speed. One reason is that they are developing what is probably the most important skill in education — the reading skill. More than that — they are learning something about what they’re reading, whether it’s fact or fiction. My neighbor, Bob, who loves to sit on his deck and read on pleasant summer days, says the person who doesn’t read a book has only been one place — right where he is. But a reader can go a hundred or a thousand places through what he or she reads.
The book, “Battle Cry” by Leon Uris, is a novel about a 17-year-old boy, Danny, who like Uris himself, quit school to join the marines when Pearl Harbor was bombed. The boy, like Uris, was an avid reader. He amazed his marine buddies with his background and knowledge on all subjects. “How do you know so much?” They asked. His answer was short and simple: “Because I read.”
Maya Angelou, the great American poet who read a poem she had written at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993 said, “Any book that helps a child form the habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”
Will Rogers, my favorite American humorist (yes, I rank him higher than Mark Twain) has put the proposition more bluntly: “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence by themselves.”
What I discovered is that summer reading for children is not hit and miss. There are lists of recommended books that kids will like: Beginner books (like “A To Z Mysteries,” “Horrible Harry,” “Jigsaw Jones,” “Scooby-Doo Mysteries” and “Stink”), a second grade reading list (including Dr. Seuss, “Giraffes Can’t Dance,” “That Is Not A Good Idea,” “Freckle Juice” and “Boo’s Surprise”), a third grade reading list (that has “Al Capone Shines My Shoes” and Boxcar Children Mysteries), a fourth grade list (“Things Not Seen,” “Every Soul A Star” and “How To Steal A Dog” look interesting), a fifth grade list — the lists get longer and longer — that suggests, among others, “My Side Of The Mountain,” “Three Good Deeds,” “Where The Mountain Meets The Moon” and “A Long Walk to Water.”
These lists code the books on level of difficulty. At the next older age group there is a book list for “young readers” and another is the top ten winners for teens that includes “The Fault Of Our Stars” by John Green, that is about two teens who form a relationship at a support group for kids battling cancer. You can’t get this stuff watching cartoons or playing videogames folks. There are entire sections and shelves labeled Juvenile Fiction, Juvenile Non-Fiction and Young Adult Section. The kids leave the library with an armful of books.
One of my favorite guides was a notebook of book reviews by local eighth grade students. Each student read a suitable book for his age group (junior high to adult), then wrote a summary of the book, an evaluation and a recommendation — all on one page. The page featured a picture of the student reading his or her book. The pictures showed expressions like wide eyed fear, open mouth amazement, puzzlement, doubt, stunned silence, deep engrossment, pleasure, thumbs up and yawning boredom.
The readers judged the books on Worth Reading? Yes or No and rating them from 1-10. Most books were rated Yes and 8-10.
But book reviews should be honest. The one that really caught my attention, by Austin D., had a picture of Austin sleeping with his face down on the book. His evaluation: Worth Reading? No. I rate this book: 5. “But if you are the kind of person who doesn’t care what you read and just stare at the page, this is the book for you.”
Yes, even kids who sleep on their books are winners.