By Lynn Esser, Former Educator & Administrator
“I looooooove book picking.” As a parent, former teacher, product marketing manager of Accelerated Reader 360, and a reader, these words bring me immense joy.
My four-year-old son said these words to me as he was standing in front of his overflowing bookshelf, searching for the perfect bedtime story. He has a passion for animals and can’t read enough about them. He studies their habitats, what they eat, and what their babies are called. He recites animal facts to anyone who will listen—in much the same way Forrest Gump shares his life story to anyone who happens to share a bench with him. He wants to be a marine biologist or an oceanographer, even though he’s a young boy from Wisconsin who has yet to see an ocean.
For Brock, reading is a quest for knowledge.
My seven-year-old also loves reading. His reading quest has been a bit different. Recently diagnosed with dyslexia, Cannon devoured the Hank Zipzer series—a hilarious series featuring the crazy adventures of a young boy with dyslexia.
For Cannon, reading this series was a quest for acceptance and understanding.
Cannon’s first-grade class visits the library twice a week. When military books started coming home, he shared with me how a classmate’s father was in the Navy. He was so curious to learn what life was like on an aircraft carrier, how it carried around the same amount of people that live in our small town, and how it was possible to build an elevator big enough to lift planes. We read these books so he could contribute to a conversation with his classmates.
Reading can be a quest for connections and conversations.
Many of our nights end with reading aloud the absurd antics of Harold and George—the heroes of the Captain Underwear series. My two boys laugh hysterically, recite lines, and bond over some good old-fashioned potty humor.
Sometimes, reading is a quest for pure entertainment.
I could go on and on about the many quests that reading fulfills. Reading is a major part of my life and the lives of my boys—yet, I know that’s not true for many kids. That’s why Judi Paul created Accelerated Reader 30 years ago—as a way to motivate her reluctant son to read. When I talk with educators and parents all over the country, they relay to me that one of the hardest things to do is to help match a child to the perfect book—one that sparks their natural curiosities and instills a love of reading.
Create a culture of reading in your home, classroom, school, and district. Talk about the interests of your children and students. Encourage kids to share what they are reading. Visit the library. Put books on display. Read aloud. Study authors and illustrators. Read newspapers and magazines. View book trailers. It’s an amazing sight to watch children discover how fun reading can be. They often read hesitantly at first and then—look out!—reading becomes a quest all on its own.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out Renaissance’s annual What Kids are Reading report. It’s filled with popular book and article titles being read by kids of all ages—fiction and nonfiction, boys and girls. You can also check out Accelerated Reader or Accelerated Reader 360 (sometimes called AR 360 by teachers familiar with the program), where each student has personalized book ideas based on his/her reading level, reading history, and what’s popular with other students.
And with that, we’re embarking on a quest of our own. ReadQuest is a one-day reading event held on Friday, February 26—and it’s a great way to celebrate reading not only with students but with schools across the nation. You’ll be able to watch a ticker of the number of books read that day by students across the nation, read the special ReadQuest nonfiction article collection about people who have achieved monumental personal quests, and vote on what quest you and your students would most like to undertake.
Prior to the event, we’re also holding a social media contest where you can answer prompts and win books and other prizes for your classroom! For more information or to register, click here—and enjoy where your quest leads!
In addition to her tenure at Renaissance, Lynn worked in the Milwaukee Public School district as a middle school reading and social studies teacher for five years and then as a school administrator for four years. Lynn is passionate about reading and spends time volunteering for causes that promote literacy.