This past weekend I was able to host a bowling/pizza party to culminate my first “Jump into Reading Contest”. The contest took place from October 1st to November 23rd, and was geared towards igniting the love of reading in children from grades 1st – 4th grades. When I was a kid, my parents instilled the joy and passion of reading into me that still stays with me to this day. Falling into a book, no matter the subject, opens new doors of education and fulfillment. For our youth, it helps to expand their educational experience and crystallize the lessons learned on a daily basis in the classroom.
As a child growing up in an urban environment before I moved to South Jersey, books allowed me to travel the world without ever leaving my bedroom. Additionally, reading allows us to continue to gain knowledge and an understanding of people and places from all across the world. This broadens the depths of our education while simultaneously improving our concern and understanding our fellow man. This is important in the world in which we live today, because our ideas of globalization and how we can relate to those of other cultures can be refined through this simple act of opening a book.
I was so proud of the children who participated in this contest. We opened it up to every school, public or private, in the 7th District and the response was incredible. Hearing about the stories they read and their favorite characters made this contest worth it. Listening to the parents talk about how this contest made their kids put down their video games and spend time reading and talking about their books with them was a welcomed side effect. I think we can all do more to encourage our young children to read more.
Reading is not only good for their social skills, by increasing their vocabulary, but it also gives them confidence. One parent shared a story with me about her daughter who was having a tough time making friends as they were new to the area this school year. Her and her classmates fully embraced this contest and used a portion of their school week to start a classroom “book club”. Each Friday, the kids would get to talk to each other in small groups about the books they were reading. Well, the once shy young lady got to engage with her classmates over their books and she began to open up more. Her mother noticed her blossoming personality as it pertains to school and her teacher recognized it as well. She told me at the pizza party, as she took a break from bowling with her new crew of friends, that she cannot wait till next year’s contest as she is going to be the district’s overall top winner!
There are a lot of great things that I get the opportunity to experience being an elected official. But, the thing I enjoy the most is getting to be able to interact with my youngest bosses, whether it’s in the classroom or at the bowling alley. As Dr. Seuss says, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn the more places you'll go.” That’s my take. What’s yours?