There are few things more satisfying for a parent, teacher, or librarian than seeing a child curled up with a book, silent, focused, and totally engrossed in what they are reading. Especially when the child is one for whom reading didn’t come easily -- it seems like a real triumph when he or she runs up and announces, “Guess what I just read!” We feel the child’s excitement and pride, and we also know the bigger picture: that that book is one stepping stone on a lifelong journey of learning and growth.
Research clearly shows that being able to read purely for oneself, to encounter new worlds, to learn new information, to be inspired -- this is the path to success in school as in life. “Numerous studies from the past sixty years,” writes Bernice Cullinan in the Research Journal of the Association of School Libraries, “found a statistically significant relation between academic achievement and independent reading.”
But sometimes getting kids to read for fun can seem like an insurmountable challenge. There are so many obstacles in the way: After-school activities and homework. The lure of digital devices. Assigned reading and preparing for tests. And all of this is compounded when the child is a struggling reader. How do we move kids from aversion and reluctance to enthusiasm and self-motivation?
The first step is helping kids find a book they truly enjoy, whether it be a graphic novel or a book about animals, giddy romance fiction or a heart-stopping zombie adventure, or just a great story about characters they recognize, perhaps even from their own neighborhood. The second step is giving kids the space and time and encouragement to read that book -- no strings attached. As Cullinan writes, “No one assigns it; no one requires a report; no one checks on comprehension.”
This is the purpose of NYC Reads 365, a new initiative from the NYC Department of Education: to help our kids read for fun. A team of passionate school librarians read hundreds of books published within the last few years and selected a set of titles for each grade that appeal to as diverse a range of readers as possible. We invite you to share these lists with young readers and help them pinpoint the books that might captivate them.