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Walter Dean Myers on the Importance of Reading

June 12, 2012
Tuesday June 5, 2012 entry from Parenting Section of About.com
 Walter Dean Myers, National Ambassador for Young People's Literature
 
Walter Dean Myers, the award-winning author and 2012-2013 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, discussed the challenges of raising readers and poised some thoughtful questions in his keynote speech for the School Library JournalDay of Dialog. In his speech, which ran the gamut from very funny to thoughtful and serious, Myers discussed his own career and background and the increasing disparity in reading ability in students in the United States and the UK.

Myers asked, “Where is the next generation of readers coming from?” He spoke about the “huge pocket of language poverty,” particularly in families suffering long-term unemployment where kids don’t grow up hearing and learning the language of the workplace.

Myers stressed the importance of bringing books to kids 3 months to 5 years old. He said there is too large a gap now when kids start school. (Note: If you are the parent of a baby or young child, see my 10 Tips for New Parents: Babies, Books and Reading Aloudfor what you can do to help raise a reader.)

Myers also said there has been too much silence about the failure of our educational system to teach kids to read and that this lack of discussion has been due to the fear of being seen as casting blame on certain groups: the poor, ethnic groups, etc.

In response to a question, Myers said his favorite childhood book was Robin Hood, but it was a book he read as a 14 year old that had a particularly strong impact on him. He found World’s Best, a collection of excerpts from all the Nobel Prize winners, inspiring.

I was also interested to learn that Walter Dean Myers has a new book for teens 14 and older. Just Write: Here’s How! was published at the end of April 2012. I am now reading my autographed copy and hope to have my review up within a week.

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