Monday, June 03, 2013

Kids…Forget About Reading This Summer

So, you’ve been out of school for a little while now. That’s time enough to get a feeling for how the rest of your summer might go. But forget about reading this summer? Maybe I can help change your mind.
Guys, your friends will probably say something like, “Hey, why don’t you hang out at my house all day? We can play that awesome new video game I told you about till our thumbs fall off.” And girls, your friends might invite you to go shopping, to the beach, or just to spend the day together. There’s nothing wrong with doing any of these things, but I’d like to encourage you to consider one other activity this summer.
        Summer reading loss is real, and it accounts for dramatic reductions in the ground you’ve gained throughout the previous school year.

Did you know that reading causes certain connections in your brain that don’t happen any other way? It’s true. When you read, your imagination kicks into high gear. In your mind, you can hear the sounds, smell the smells, and feel the heat of the desert or cold of winter. You can taste, or even feel and see pictures of places without ever leaving your reading couch or chair.
            I come to writing books from a lifetime of film and video production. I know, first hand, how the right emotional triggers are used in order to achieve results the filmmakers are after. When writing, I play music that fits the scene. This provides a picture in my head. If a book deals with the heat of summer, I like to write during summer months. When I can’t do that, I’ve been known to crank the heat up in my house to reach the proper conditions. Winter stories are handled the same way. You’d be amazed at the feelings that come when a thermostat is turned off while it’s freezing outside. Sometimes, it’s nearly impossible to get my fingers to move across the keyboard.

Here are some examples from a couple of my books to show how your mind sets the stage, during reading.

From Terror At Wolf Lake
A light snow started falling. Heavy wind blew it across the road. Before long, small drifts began forming. The light snow turned heavier and the wind blew even harder, making it nearly impossible to see the road anymore. Hidden beneath the blowing snow were larger drifts in the roadway.

            Without warning, Eddy’s father hit one, turning the truck sideways. He fought hard to regain control but the truck left the road and careened into the median.

            “I don’t want to get stuck in here,” he said as he pushed the gas pedal to the floor. Even though the engine was at full power, their big lumbering SUV seemed to move in slow motion. As they continued through the center strip between the divided highways their front end acted like a snow blower. Powdered snow flew up over the front of the truck, completely covering the windshield. Finally they felt the truck level off again.

            “Don’t ask me how, but I think we’re back on the road,” Eddy’s father shouted. Everyone else cheered and whistled. But when he turned on his windshield wipers their excitement turned to terror.

            “Dad! Do something!” Eddy screamed.

            Heading straight toward them was a giant eighteen-wheeler with its brights on. The trucker blew his horn and locked the brakes. Eddy’s father hit the gas and that diesel-belching monster only missed them by a paint job.

From When The Lights Go Out
 “Now?” Gill asked.

“Yes, now!” Peyton yelled back.

Gill leaned forward, took a firm grip on the rope with both hands, and prepared to pull it with all of his might. But when he pulled, the rope stopped about halfway out. When that happened, it flew out of Gill’s hands. And, because he had pulled so hard, his body kept right on going in the direction of the pull. The next thing he knew, he was lying flat on his back, looking up at the stars.

“Hurry,” Peyton cried out. “They’re almost here!”

Gill turned himself over and crawled back to the generator. Again, he reached out for the rope, took a firm grip, and pulled. This time, the rope did its job, but the generator didn’t start.

“What’s wrong?” Dave asked.

“It didn’t start, that’s what’s wrong.”

Peyton aimed his light at the generator. “Try it again.”

Gill pulled and pulled. “I’m tryin’,” he said.

“Well try harder!”

Again and again, Gill pulled on that rope, but it was no use. That’s when Peyton dropped to the ground and crawled over. He shined his light into the area where he’d found the loose wire before, tightened it, and then noticed that the fuel valve wasn’t turned on, and the switch wasn’t turned to “run.” He fixed both of those, then nearly growled, “Pull it one more time.”

Gill grabbed the rope, but before he gave it a pull this time, the boys heard the sound of that truck as it was about to hit the back gate without even slowing down.

“Umph!” Gill grunted. He pulled the rope, and the generator roared to life. Peyton quickly plugged in the electrical cords, and all six of the lights that the boys had set up earlier, came on and shined directly at the back gate.

The boys watched as the driver hit the brakes and locked up every wheel on that truck and trailer. It went into a slide, on the pavement, as blue smoke billowed up from underneath. Then, just before crashing through the gate, the driver put the truck in gear, turned the wheel all the way to the left, and hit the accelerator.

“They’re getting away!” Dave cried out.

Did you notice how, with simply words on a page, you were able to experience what was happening, in your head? That’s what I’m talking about. No one had to tell you how to feel or what to think about what you read. If you play video games all summer, go shopping till you drop, watch movies, or mess around on your electronic devices, someone else is providing the sights and sounds they want you to experience, and you can leave your imagination parked in the garage of your head.
Here are some things you might not know about reading.

Students learn 4,000 to 12,000 new words each year from reading.
Our eyes become more like ears when we read, as we “see” what’s happening.
98% of reading is actually listening. Only 2% of reading – words on a page - is visual.
Reading is an active mental process, unlike TV. You actually have to think when you read, and that makes the reader smarter.
Reading improves memory.
I’ll leave you with one more thought. If you want to be a great athlete, musician, or do your best at anything, you have to practice. If you don’t take the time to practice, others will be better than you in these areas. Reading is practice for a successful time in school and later in life.
So, which would you rather be, a leader or a follower? The choice is up to you, and you can decide which it’s going to be by reading this summer.
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Curtis Walker said...

Great post, Max. The right story will capture the imagination of even the most restless kids.

max said...

Thank you Curtis.