Nov 092018

Last summer PBS launched an initiative called THE GREAT AMERICAN READ,  a six month poll to find the novel most beloved by Americans.  They invited 7,200 people representing a geographical cross section of America to nominate their favorite novel.  The public was invited to cast their ballots for their most loved novel, perhaps one they have read and re-read.  Participants could vote for one book, once a day, as many times as they liked.

Four million votes were cast in a six-month period!

For the critics who say that “no one reads anymore”, or “technology has wiped out the readers in the world” the response to this project provides a boost to the reading community.

While it is true that technology, in particular the internet and social media, has captured the time and attention of millions of people worldwide, there still seem to be vast numbers of readers — of all ages!

And why books of fiction?

The books nominated may be works of a writer’s imagination but often they reflect the experiences and influences on a writer.  In many cases, they appear to be deeply autobiographical but written as fictional novels rather than straight memoir.

What need does reading fulfill?

Over and over again, the participants interviewed for the PBS series spoke about a book that described  their own world, characters they identified with and provided an outlet for their own questions, worries or fears.  The characters of these novels presented models, echoing these readers’ concerns, perhaps validating their own feelings or experience.

For some readers, a novel opens a world far different from their own. Through reading one can take a voyage to a distant part of the world, or understand how people from a different time and place interacted with the world and struggled through timeless problems.

What value does the reading experience provide?

Reading allows us to understand how other people think, feel and react, sometimes people very different from ourselves.  Yet the best books reveal universal truths about human behavior.  The obstacles, human errors, struggles and sometimes the happy endings, can give inspiration.

In a world with more challenges and questions than definite paths and answers, reading about people’s histories, failures and successes provides comfort as well as direction.  Don’t we all need hope?

If you loved reading as a child, or even if you didn’t, pick up half a dozen books at your library, download samples on your e-reader or browse in a local bookstore and perhaps you’ll find one that will change your thinking — maybe even change your life.


Check back for more articles on communications, public speaking, speech pathology and executive function.





Oct 252017
  • How many adults say they don’t enjoy reading?

  • How many kids say they don’t enjoy reading?

Isn’t it curious that few adults will admit to not enjoying reading, yet more than 50% of the students I see from elementary through college age will acknowledge that they don’t read for pleasure.  What accounts for the difference?

In the adult world reading is acknowledged as a skill that “smart” people possess, a tool for success in many areas.  As an adult, to say that you don’t like to read may diminish the respect you receive from other people.  Adults are expected to read newspapers, magazines, books, whether in paper form or in recent years, online.

But how many adults who claim to enjoy reading are embarrassed to admit that they only read by necessity, deriving little pleasure in the process?  More people than will admit gain their news information from TV or online browsing and only read — in the sense of books — in limited amounts, perhaps a beach read on vacation.

I suspect that all those children and adolescents who say they don’t enjoy reading will not become readers in adulthood.  As adults it becomes the little secret they keep hidden because “smart” people,  of course, find pleasure in reading, in being lost in a book of fiction or non-fiction.

  • Why do some children and adolescents find little enjoyment in reading?

The process of reading, understanding the code of letters representing sounds, is a complex, difficult skill that takes years to master.  At the word level, a lack of word attack skills and diminished vocabulary impede comprehension.  At the sentence level, the more sophisticated and complex the writing, the more difficult comprehension becomes.  

Becoming a fluent reader requires patience and practice, two features that students may not possess. Some schools do not emphasize guided reading in class and independent reading at home after the first few grades, at least not enough to create a habit of reading.  In some households, parents don’t read much at home so the critical models of reading as a pleasurable activity are missing.

  • Do electronics interfere with the development of reading as a pleasurable habit?

I’m sorry to say that the internet, video games and social media take up so much attention during students’ waking hours that settling down with a book seems like a waste of time.  The immediacy of social interaction with a computer or smart phone trumps the patience required to focus on a book — and the pleasure derived from losing oneself in a book seems to have little value.

But baby boomers had TV to divert them away from reading!  Yes, a TV in nearly every home may have taken time away from reading, but with less than a dozen channels, the diversionary value of television was limited.  Now five hundred or more channels on TV, unlimited videos and social media right on the phone in your hand all provide stiff competition for the printed word in book form.

  • Is there a solution?

Yes, turn off the electronics, walk away from the computer and the television and open a book — hardcover, paperback or e-reader.  What can result?  You can find the lost pleasure you might have forgotten as a child or, gain the reading skills you may not have truly developed in your earlier years.  Even more, you can pass on your pleasure of reading to your children by serving as a role model.

Patience and practice can generate a surprising payoff — finding the lost pleasure of reading even in the electronic age.


Check back soon for more articles on communications, writing, speech pathology and executive function.


Jul 102009

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…” as Gershwin wrote, and true it is. No more school, after school lessons, and no more homework. Kids feel free, parents breathe easier, life has a slower pace. Perhaps fifty years ago, even twenty-five years ago, this was the life, but not now, not entirely. Yes, no school, no homework, but research has shown that students of all ages lose skills and knowledge when they spend two months without any intellectual challenge, without reading or simple calculation. What’s a parent to do?

Read the rest of the article here (pdf)