How do you make a group of middle school students happy on a late spring day? Get them out of class and give them a free book.
April 23, 2013 was the second annual World Book Night here in the United States. Publishers, authors, and volunteers come together and give out brand new books for free to light or non readers across the country. People that receive free books are under no obligation to do anything in return, although the hope is that the book will get read and the pleasure in reading will be realized. It’s really just spreading the love of reading, one book at a time.
This year my book selection was Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts. I decided to hand it out to 7th graders who are in a remedial reading class (Literacy Lab) and asked their teacher if I could come in, explain the program, hand out the books, and give a book talk. It took about 15 minutes all together.
What a blast! All the students were so surprised to get books and their reactions were priceless! One kid, a girl with braids and braces, kept asking if she had to give it back. When I reassured her that it was hers to keep, she smiled slowly. One kid did mention he didn’t like paperbacks, but every other child said thank you and all we’re reading when I left. Truly it was the best part of my day.
The next day, two kids told me they had finished the book that night and passed it off to another. One gave his to a friend and one to his brother. World Book Night continues!
So how is this accidental literacy? Well, randomly receiving a book is pretty unexpected. I would love it if that happened to me! Also, it reaffirms my belief, and the researched truism, that reading is more likely to be part of a child’s life if they own books.
In the end, I can’t say enough good things about World Book Night, the authors who donate their books, the publishers who are involved, and the volunteers who spread the books around. All believers in a literate world, and that’s no accident.
When have you given a book to someone as an gift?