This just in:
Study Links Drop in Test Scores to a Decline in Time Spent Reading (NYT)
You don’t even have to read the article to know what it’s going to say. I mean. Isn’t that kind of like a headline saying "Study Links Increase In Wet-Hairedness to a Decline in Umbrella Use?" "Scientists: More Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wounds Equal Spike in Suicide Rate?"
And you probably also know what I feel about "testing" and "test scores" and "No Child Left Behind." (Quick summary: yuck, bleah, puke.) But even as a dyed-in-the-wool anti-tester, I can predict that when Fisher finally takes his first government-mandated fill-in-the-bubble test 40 months from now, he’s going to kick ass on the reading ("language arts") part. Why? Because he reads. He reads at the breakfast table ("Fisher, put down Harry Potter and the Vincible Enemy and finish your cinna-mini crunch!"). He reads in the car ("Mama, I’m not feeling so gooood…"). He reads in the bathroom (*flush*). He reads in bed ("Fisher, it’s eleven-forty-five. You can finish the book in the morning."). Nobody makes him read. Nobody dangles dire threats about the consequences of unreadingness over his head. (Though, shamefully, we have been known to threaten him with taking away books for the rest of the day if he doesn’t get off his $@%! lazy @$$! and help out around the house a little.) He just reads.
Rhys, though not quite a full-fledged reader yet, lives a similarly book-absorbed existence. He especially likes Calvin & Hobbes (though I’m not sure what percentage of the jokes are wasted on him), nonfiction books about cats ("Mama, do you think a Sphinx cat is ugly? I think it’s ugly.") and especially the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems (author of the Pigeon books, e.g., Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!). Elephant and Piggie are, natch, an elephant (grey and with an uncanny resemblance to Papa) and a pig (pink and irrepressible) whose super-easy-reader adventures comprise a flawless blend of kid-friendliness and parentally-appreciated irony. And the facial expressions are incomparable.
But of course our kids are all about the books. They live in a freakin’ library, for gosh sakes. The living room wall is lined with books. Cookbooks teeter against the dining room wall (I really really need to fix that bookcase). Books spill from the shelves in their room and stack up on either side of the Parental Bed and ohmygosh let’s not even talk about the boxes of books in the basement.
So this is what got me. The study in the Times compared, at its extremes, children growing up in homes with more than 100 books and children growing up in homes with fewer than ten books.
Fewer than 10. Jesus H. Pantsuit. I think there are more than ten books stacked on my nightstand. There are more than ten books on my library hold list. There are more than ten books at the foot of the boys’ bed every night. (Not when we put them to bed–no, when they go to bed all is a model of tidiness. They get out of bed and retrieve books after Mama and Papa retire for some wine-drinking grownup time.)
No wonder these poor media-addled kids are floundering in a world where their accomplishment is measured based on their ability to correctly darken a series of bubbles. There are fewer than ten books in their houses.
Where’s Dolly Parton when America really, really, really needs her?