Culture of Reading

In the U.S., reading for pleasure is a habit that most people have, if not books then magazines, newspapers, etc. Mothers read to their babies the moment they find out they’re pregnant. Many children know how to read before they get to kindergarten. It seems some parents are pushing their kids too hard. In this New York Times article, U.S. children are being forced to read chapter books, skipping picture books altogether.

There is a huge discrepancy between U.S. children being forced to read books way above their level, and Nicaraguan children never seeing picture books. In Nicaragua, the reality is:

  • Most librerias don’t sell libros – Most bookstores don’t sell books, they are just office supply stores
  • Most bibliotecas don’t have have books on their shelves – you have to know what you want and ask the front desk lady to get it for you.
  • Many bibliotecas don’t let you check out books.
  • Books are priced in dollars, and when most families earn about $1 a day, it’s impossible to buy books priced at $8-$10 each
  • A lot of books for sale are classic fairy tales where the hero or heroine is fair skinned with blond hair and blue eyes
  • Picture books here have TONS of words on each page, which makes them inappropriate for most young kids, and difficult to read aloud

All of these things add up to mean not much reading for pleasure happens in Nicaragua. The country has a rich history of poetry as well as an amazing literacy campaign in the 1980’s where illiteracy rates dropped almost 40% in a matter of months. It’s one thing to teach a person to read, and another to instill a love of reading. It seems like I have my work cut out for me! My hope is that the work is not an imposition of ideas from the outside, but a concept that can grow and be nurtured by Nicaraguans themselves so that it becomes a part of their culture.

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3 Comments on “Culture of Reading”

  1. Lauren Says:

    I feel like sometimes Americans read too much. Similar to one of your later posts about polling your neighbors, I feel like Americans have lost the human element in a story. Americans believe that the educated people read facts and write them down. But hearing a story from someone is not as accurate and not as precise and therefore not as valuable. However, when a story is written you lose many things as well, inflection, passion, body language and connection with the person that told the story to you. Someone who has written a book in our society is more valuable (get paid better and have a title at a university maybe) but someone who can recite other peoples stories by heart might get on stage a few times but is not well recognized. I am not trying to knock literacy, it is very important to learn how to read and enjoy doing it. All I am saying is that maybe we Americans read too much to our kids, rely on written communication too much, not value enough the story teller. Maybe we need to listen to more stories and memorize a few so that we can tell our own. Literacy is helpful when you want to read a lot of books, but being able to communicate by oral stories is another skill that I don’t think is valued enough in the US.

    • theclanks Says:

      Thanks for this comment Lauren. I think it’s very true that other cultures besides the U.S. have a very rich culture of sharing stories orally. I definitely want to learn more about that culture here in Nicaragua.
      Now, when is Rami going to start reading Shakespeare? Haha:)

  2. Rocio Says:

    Hi Adam , hi marisa not sure who wrote the post but I understand and I am sure it’s a hard pill to swollow but having you both their is making a difference in each childs life put it this way each child you read to will take something away just from you reading the first few paragraphs so chin up and keep up the good fight and I am sure over a period of time you will help a child learn to read and remember you have a community of friends and family behind you.


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