Groucho Marx once said, “Outside of a dog, a man’s best friend is a book. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” The recently released Ten Tips for Raising Readers, by retired librarian and Charleston columnist Fran Hawk, feels a lot like this quote. Not the part about being inside of a dog, but the tone—comedic and yet practical, with worthy wisdom on the side.
I picked up this book because I know Hawk personally. I know she’s got a bunch of grandkids, and she’s the children’s book columnist for the Charleston Post and Courier. I know she has a Master’s Degree in Library Science, and I know she was an inspirational—and sometimes controversial— librarian who took what she’d learned with her own children and equated it to creative child psychology in the workplace. (Ex. Danny buried all the toys in the sandbox today? It’s going to be a bad day for Danny.) These professional and personal encounters inspired Hawk to encourage reading in children and adults alike, and now, thanks to Ten Tips for Raising Readers, I can be inspired, too.
The format is simple. Each chapter starts with a “Tip.” Then, building upon her own experience as librarian, columnist, mother, and grandmother, Hawk expands upon her tip. Using the comedy of Groucho and the wisdom of Atticus Finch, she makes her tips easy and accessible to parents and educators, dealing with children from the terrible twos to the terrible teens. A “Be Your Own Librarian” section at the end of each chapter gives you the practical steps to make the tip really happen, and finally, Hawk lists a couple of her favorite titles in age-specific segments. Throughout, there is an ever-present comic touch. This is not an academic theses; this is an entertaining play-by-play from a parent/librarian who has been there, fighting on the front lines for literacy.
Do I sound over-dramatic? Well, I’m not. Listen to this: “I’ve met children who arrived for 4-year-old kindergarten completely mystified by how to open a book, much less what was inside” (TTRR, pg. 12). If this doesn’t terrify you, I’m sending Mickey Rourke to your house for dinner, because obviously, NOTHING terrifies you. Hawk wants you to know—when kids don’t read, they miss out. Honestly, I don’t really understand kids. I don’t get along with kids. And yet, for the past four years of my life, what have I done? I’ve publicized children’s books and the authors who write them. Why do I do this? Because like Mrs. Hawk, I believe in what children’s books accomplish. I thoroughly, passionately believe that children need to be raised reading. I believe kids who read will end up smarter, more socially adept, and more successful, and I will fight ‘til I’m broken and bleeding to keep kids reading. So will Fran Hawk.
Hawk also included this quote in Ten Tips for Raising Readers, from Caldecott winner Gail E. Haley: “Children who are not spoken to by live and responsive adults will not learn to speak properly. Children who are not answered will stop asking questions. They will become incurious. And children who are not told stories and who are not read to will have few reasons for wanting to learn to read.” The truth is, this whole thing begins with us—the adults. We are in charge of successfully raising little readers, and Hawk’s call to action in TTRR will stir you to fight against a stupid, ignorant, Fahrenheit 451 future. And all it takes to begin? One. Single. Book.
Read Ten Tips for Raising Readers. It’ll make Ray Bradbury happy, and I’ll sleep better at night.
For more about Fran Hawk: http://www.franhawk.webs.com/.
For ordering info: http://www.thereadingwarehouse.com/book.php?ISBN=9780615290249.