On The Reading Mandate And Other Stuff

Walter Dean Myers has been named the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, and this is some of what he has to say about it:

“We all know we should eat right and we should exercise, but reading is treated as if it’s this wonderful adjunct. ‘Reading takes you to faraway places.’ We’re still thinking in terms of enticing kids to read with a sports book or a book about war. We’re suggesting that they’re missing something if they don’t read but, actually, we’re condemning kids to a lesser life. If you had a sick patient, you would not try to entice them to take their medicine. You would tell them, ‘Take this or you’re going to die.’ We need to tell kids flat out: reading is not optional.”

Now don't get me wrong -- I do believe that reading is crucial for kids (not to mention everyone no matter how young or old they might be). I mean, I did my student teaching in a high school where I dealt with seniors who never read any books and who could barely write a full and sensible paragraph. Granted, not all the seniors were like that, but there were enough to cause alarm. And it's just getting worse. That's why I find it shameful when people want to bash any kind of young adult books, whether they're Harry Potter or Twilight, because at least they're getting kids to read.

But, having said that, I do think it's important -- vitally important, really -- that kids aren't forced into reading. Because, just like with anything else, when you're forced into something, nine times out of ten you become obstinate in doing whatever that something is.

So how do we get kids to read (and like reading, no less) without forcing it down their throats like, um, medicine?

I think I'll leave that up to our new Ambassador to decide.

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Have you taken advantage of my two free e-books yet? If not, hurry, because the offer is only good for a few more days. Currently, No Shelter is killing it with over 12,000 free downloads and is, as of this writing, number 33 in the overall free Kindle store. The Dishonored Dead, on the other hand, is doing so-so, with about 1,100 free downloads. If you have taken advantage of these free downloads (and even if you haven't and just want to be a nice person), help spread the word, huh? The more downloads, the better.

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My local newspaper did a nice write-up of what's happened to me since the Hint Fiction anthology was released last year. (Hint: a lot.)

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The very cool and talented Roxane Gay gave Phantom Energy a nice shout-out on her end-of-year-blog-post where she talked about, among other things, all the books she read in 2011:

"I must say, I love this book. Swartwood’s short stories are quirky but they’re really fucking good. This is one of those books not enough people know about. The title story, in particular, is just amazing. Buy this book. For real."

Thanks, Roxane!

If you don't regularly read Roxane's blog, do yourself a favor and fix that now. Plus, her first collection Ayiti is now available on Kindle for a very reasonable price, so check it out.