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A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Friday, March 2, 2012

So you are a reader; write on!

Did you know that Friday was the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day?
So how did you celebrate? Me, I watched television.
Live! With Kelly. Segue to Ellen. Then there was some ESPN SportsCenter thrown in.
Just kidding. I read the newspaper Friday. I read Motorcyclist magazine. I read some more of Jonathan Raban’s “Driving Home.”
You see, I read a lot.
I like crime books. I like adventure books. Ironically, I don’t read much sports stuff. I love sports, but mostly to watch or participate in, not to read about. At least not in book form. The sports section comes first in the newspaper.
I grab snippets off the computer screen, but that is about it. I cannot sit there and stare at a screen and pretend it’s a page that I can feel and smell. Give me coffee, a bagel and ink smudge. Call me a Neanderthal and I’ll just shrug, order a Mastodon burger with cheddar cheese and bacon and go on reading my book.
The NEA’s Read Across America Day is an annual reading and motivation program that calls for every child to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of beloved children’s author, Dr. Seuss.
In cities and towns across the nation, teachers, teenagers, librarians, politicians, actors, athletes, parents, grandparents, and others develop NEA's Read Across America activities to bring reading excitement to children of all ages. Governors, mayors, and other elected officials recognize the role reading plays in their communities with proclamations and floor statements. Athletes and actors issue reading challenges to young readers. And teachers and principals seem to be more than happy to dye their hair green or be duct-taped to a wall if it boosts their students' reading.
I’ve always been a reader. I’ve been a reader even before I could read, if that makes any sense. I remember sitting in my parents’ bedroom and just spitting out a string of letters and asking my mom if that is a word. If not, I’d spit out some more vowels and consonants and hope I’d come up with a word. That could go on forever.
I’d get up on Sunday mornings when the color comics were in the newspaper, and beg my older brothers to read them to me. Most times they wouldn’t, but I kept begging.
The worst thing that happens to reading for most kids is mandatory requirements. The teacher says you’ve got to read three chapters in this book and four in that book and 200 pages in that text book before the next class.
Well, pretty quickly, reading becomes a chore and not a pleasure. Books arrive with groans, not grins. In that way, it is sort of like running. For kids, running starts out as pure joy. Race you to the next house. Let’s run around the block. I’m going to chase the dog around the backyard.
But it becomes punishment. The coach thinks you’re screwing around so he tells you to run a lap. The gym teacher asks why you’re late for class, so you run two laps. Running becomes a disciplinary measure, not unlike a swat on the rear or a time out in the corner.
I understand reading assignments. That is part of the educational gig. But I think we overdo it.
So just go read something fun tonight. Go to the library and pick up a book. Maybe it is something you’ve never read before. Maybe it is one of those books you were forced to read back in school, something tedious like Tolstoy or something undecipherable like Shakespeare.
Just read something. I don’t care if it is on the computer screen, from Amazon, or from Barnes and Noble.
Reading takes us places we couldn’t get to ourselves. Who’s got the money to fish with Hemingway or climb into a dog sled with Jack London?  Gun down a bad guy in the wild west with Robert Parker. Get an offer you cannot refuse from Puzo. Take a drive in a van with Kesey or befriend a kid named Potter thanks to J.K. Rowling.
It was National Reading Day on Friday. I started off with Kelly. I segued to Ellen. I watched some SportsCenter.
And then I started reading. It was a great day. Just like all of the others.


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