The Value of Reading
by Mark Boyle
November 21, 2012
How important is reading? Well, there are any number of ways to put that into context. For example, did you know that two-thirds of the children in this country that can not read proficiently by the end of the fourth grade will wind up on welfare or in prison? Or that 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate? Or that the same could be said about more than 60 percent of all prison inmates?
I could go on, but you see where I'm going. An ability to read is essential to succeed, and the fact that the Pacers not only recognize that but embrace it and get out into the community to do what they can to help promote reading is one of the many reasons I’m proud to work for this franchise. I was fortunate to have parents who considered reading and independent thinking to be basic building blocks for success, and I was taught to read before I got to kindergarten. I’m not saying that I was thumbing through copies of War and Peace between toilet training sessions, but I could read simple sentences before I ever went to school (that I was so competitive that I used this skill to taunt the rest of my less proficient classmates is both a story for another time and insight into my warped mind) and was encouraged to read all throughout my formative years. To this day, one of my best childhood memories is the weekly trips to the library with my mom. Well, that and my occasional trips – forbidden, of course – across a busy highway to an office building that had a soda machine that I found endlessly fascinating, in large part because I had discovered a way to subtly bump the machine that produced free bottles of icy, cold Coke. But I digress.
Now, I am not really a fan of children. I realize that it is essential we encourage them and nurture them because, after all, they are our future and all of that. But, in general, I would just as soon someone else nurture them, which is why I don’t have any. Still, when I have a chance to help them take an interest in reading, I feel entirely different about kids. In my mind, children transform in those situations, morphing from attention vortexes with limited attention spans that seem to have an endless capability to do annoying things to curious minds with a genuine interest in something that I had great interest in when I was that same age.
Oh, and by they way, do not make the mistake of reading the above paragraph and thinking that I am somehow under the impression that I wasn’t just like the kids I described when I was that age. If anything, I was worse. At one point in my childhood, my parents threatened to have my middle name legally changed to smarta**, and I once had a football coach in high school who asked me if my parents had any children that weren’t mentally challenged. In the interest of accuracy, I should point out that he actually used a term that some people find offensive, but the people that edit my stuff are very sensitive to being politically correct at all times so I’m saving them the trouble and proactively editing my own stuff.
On Monday, we went to River Birch Elementary School in Avon to read with the kids, and it was exhilarating. Oh, sure, they still had short attention spans and in the end were far more interested in Boomer’s antics than they were in reading, but you could see the curiosity in their eyes and how they were engaged when we read about cows and spiders, and animals that could type, and cats that worked as firefighters and pizza delivery types, and other stuff that captivates children of that age. It’s been a long time since I was five or six years old, and in the years between then and now I’ve been able to accomplish some of the things I set out to do when I was young, in large part because I took a great interest in reading at the same age that the kids at River Birch are now. But I can vaguely remember some of the things I enjoyed in those days, and every once in awhile something happens that makes me wish I was that age again. Monday was one of those days.
Do you think River Birch might let me enroll?