WASHINGTON, DC – Here’s an alarming statistic: just 63% of high school graduates are proficient in reading. That’s the assessment from the U.S. Department of Education in its most recent Nation’s Report Card. And, thirty-seven percent lack sufficient reading comprehension.
“If a child can’t read, he or she cannot learn, and that can have serious consequences for the future of the country. What kind of citizens will these children be when they grow up? Will he or she be equipped to make responsible choices? Abraham Lincoln put it this way: “how can any man judge, unless his mind has been opened and enlarged by reading?” We need to push to influence the schools into focusing on the importance of the printed word,” says education advocate David Bruce Smith.
Smith’s conclusion is reinforced in a recent Intellectual Takeout article, which suggests that our schools get a failing grade when it comes to instilling a love—or interest in—what a student reads. Most are “taught” it is a chore they must endure.
But, not all teachers downplay its importance. Neme Alperstein is a teacher with an international reputation for excellence, and a member of Smith’s panel of judges for the Grateful American Book Prize. She believes “you can’t force unwanted reading materials on young children. It just doesn’t work if one hopes to develop a love of reading and learning. Children must have the freedom to select what they read if they are to acquire a love of books in support of learning. That freedom can take a child’s interest in new and exciting directions.
“It is essential to recognize the limitations of prescribed reading lists and their impact on a child’s motivation. Have you ever given a young child a book he or she didn’t want? I’ve seen children hand the book back or simply leave it somewhere as they then look for what they really want to read, digitally or in print. Children usually make better reading choices for themselves that they then actually read. The key is to foster a joy and enthusiasm for reading, often what prescribed lists from programs in schools cannot achieve,” according to Alperstein.
The report from the Department of Education also revealed that the nation’s children are deficient in their knowledge of who they are, where they come from, and—most of the important lessons of history,” according to Smith.
Smith and Dr. Bruce Cole, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, established the Grateful American Book Prize in 2015 to encourage authors and publishers to produce more works of fiction and nonfiction about American history—that appeal to young readers.
This year’s panel of judges is in the process of selecting the winner; he or she will receive a cash award of $13,000 commemorating the 13 original colonies, and a medallion created by the American artist, Clarice Smith. The October 12th reception will be at the National Archives in Washington, DC. Two writers will also receive “Honorable Mention” acknowledgments of $500 each.
Submissions for 2018 will be accepted January 1st through July 31st.