Wooo!!!! It’s Teen Read Week! (or it was this past week) I am not a teen. But my choice of career path centers around the literacy of young people, so I’m celebrating!
In light of Teen Read Week and this beautiful article (GO READ IT! It’s Neil Gaiman!) that just came out a few days ago, I’m going to talk a little bit about why I want to do what I want to do.
I’ve always taken great joy out of helping people. I’ve also always taken great joy out of reading. While I may still not know what it is I exactly want to do with this, I will be graduating in the spring with a Bachelor’s degree in English and a 6-12 teaching license in the state of Illinois. I plan to teach for a few years and save up so I can go to grad school, either for English in the area of children’s/YA lit and/or a library science degree in youth services and/or school libraries. Obviously, I’m very invested in this, but it’s helpful to remind myself why, and this week is the perfect opportunity.
Storytelling is universal. People learn through story and have learned through story since the beginning. Oral epics. Aesop’s fables. Disney movies. Not just young people, but all of us, all of us learn from story every day. I refuse to believe that there is such a thing as a young person who doesn’t like reading stories. They might not like reading because they are struggling readers being asked to read difficult texts, or high-level readers bored with low-level texts. But pair the right child with the right book, and you can’t possibly find a kid who dislikes reading.
I believe that above anything else we can do, reading creates empathy for the human condition which we cannot easily find anywhere else. I also believe relationships among human beings are what makes our lives worth living. And to be a better liver of those lives, we need to understand one another. Reading opens up an infinite number of opportunities for understanding things we never thought about before. And if we do it enough, it continues to make us more curious about the world, and curiosity, in my opinion, is one of the most important human emotions. This is what I want to bring to young people. This is what I’m choosing to devote my skills to. It’s a really hard job, but I know it will be worthwhile.
So read to your teens, or give teens books to read for themselves. Set examples for reading. Read YA, even if you aren’t a YA! Donate books to those who don’t have them readily at their disposal. I know it sounds cheesy, but reading really does open doors, and I want to help kids get them open.