Rediscovering the love of reading

By Lindsey Maeda

I had been waiting and was growing impatient.

Sitting in the main office of any elementary school is never fun.  In most cases, you are either an anxious parent, waiting to take your child home early because they ate something funky, or the unfortunate student who was sent off to no-man’s land on bad behavior.

In my case, I was neither a parent nor student, but a college newspaper reporter waiting for some answers from a teacher who was out to lunch. Since I had nothing better to do, I grabbed my iPhone out of my backpack and began playing video games.

Other than my slightly awkward presence that filled the room, there was a little boy sitting at a table near the door, jabbing at his lumpy cafeteria food. He might have been six-or-seven-years-old.  I had a feeling that he wasn’t here to keep the secretaries company, but he had been sent to this office for disturbing his peers.

After scurrying outside to throw away the remnants of his lunch, the boy did something that I did not expect. He plopped back into his chair, dug his arm into a blue crate that had been perched on the table and fished out a book. He actually read the book, front to back.

I put down my phone and watched as his gentle finger carefully traced over each word and guided his eyes across every page. The sound of light chatter and keyboard clicking that was coming from the secretaries was now accompanied by the boy’s mumbled whisper, as he read the story aloud with complete fluency.

After witnessing this, I became faintly embarrassed about myself. We had both been waiting for the lunch bell to ring and there I was squirming around with the attention span of two-year-old, ferociously trying to beat the high score in Doodle Jump.

Impressed by the boy’s productive use of time and desire to read a book, I started to wonder if the Dr. Seuss read-aloud event hosted by the school last Friday, had any influence on him.

Last week, Elans Marlene Grajeda, Erik Luna, the Campus News Editor-in-Chief, and I visited Sierra Park Elementary School to read Dr. Seuss books to the K-6 classes.

In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday and in association with Reading Across America, we along with several other representatives from the local communities, paraded from classroom to classroom with our chosen books.

To my surprise, the class I was able to observe was patient and cooperative. I had expected these second and third graders to fidget in their seats and be more thrilled about the staff members dressed as Dr. Seuss’ fictional characters.

The majority of them sat quietly, doe-eyed and focused on the stories. It took me a while to realize how much some students enjoy listening to stories.  I also found myself feeling this warmth and comfort as I listened to the voices of the other readers.

Their voices triggered a sequence of the sweetest memories from my childhood. I remembered cuddling in bed with my younger brother, as my mom read books ranging from tales about Clifford the Big Red Dog to a mischievous mouse who is given a cookie.

Now that I am past my elementary school days and have become more literate, I hardly read books for pleasure.  The only books I frequently read are my school textbooks. I had also not been aware of how much my once-refined literacy skills were slowly heading downhill.

Instead of consuming my free time with a good book, I’ve now become accustomed to logging onto Facebook and YouTube. Instead of reading an issue of the Los Angeles Times every day, I probably check my Twitter feed more often than I should.

My visits to Sierra Park Elementary School were enlightening.  Not only was I reminded of my carefree childhood, but also the benefits of reading on a day-to-day basis.

“We want to show kids that reading can be fun.  It’s different when you’re reading to others and we hope that students become motivated to read more,” said Sierra Park Elementary School Coordinator Frances Jimenez.

Seeing as several elementary school children have all this motivation to improve their literacy, I can play more of an active role, myself. This weekend, instead of sitting in front of my laptop purchasing apps for my iPhone, I’ll be heading to Barnes and Noble.

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