Several years ago, one of my students sent me a note telling me how grateful she was that I had assigned her to read Junot Diaz's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The book, which tells the story of a young Dominican-American "ghetto-nerd," hit home with this student, who wrote that she finished the book in tears. I loved the book too but what really struck me about her note was the way she described herself: "Professor, I'm not really a reader." I'm always struck by the blunt honesty of my students regarding most anything in their lives (my wife calls it "verbal vomit") but the idea of admitting, in college no less, that one wasn't much for reading always stayed with me. That student was not alone, each year I read the work of students, particularly Latino students, whose writing--awkward, halting, unclear--reveals a life devoid of reading.
We know, of course, that the love of reading starts early in childhood and that parents are the most important early models of reading for their kids. Despite this, when we look at the reading proficiency rate of American children, the rates are very low. And when we take a look at the reading proficiency of Latino children, the rates are among the lowest in the nation. Monica Olivera has offered parents some advice about how to get our kids to read more and to enjoy it. Given the importance of reading and the scope of the reading crisis in this country we would all do well to listen to her.