Friday, September 24, 2010

Put Down The Controller and Pick Up A Book

Thomas Spence, President of Spence Publishing Company in Dallas, Texas, writes in the Wall Street Journal Online Opinion Journal his suggestion on How To Raise Boys Who Read. Spence states that the decreasing number of boys that enjoy reading is due to excess playing of video games and Internet use. He supports his theory with a randomized controlled trial performed by Dr. Robert Weis, psychology professor at Denison University. The trial focused on the effects of video games had on academic ability. The results confirmed boys with video games at home suffer academically because they are gaming more than studying. Spence then goes on to questions whether the current solution to attract boys to reading is the right one. Presently, the attempts to lure boys in are made through books in the "gross-out market." This idea is supported by those that believe the problem is that boys are not given books that are interesting to them. Spence claims the problem with this thinking is "if you keep meeting the boy where he is, he doesn't go very far." As a father of six boys, Spence's analysis of the problem seems to be backed up by sufficient "field research."

Reading this article, I wonder what other people's experience or thoughts are about Spence's claims. Video games having an adverse effects on academics is not new thinking. However, I did not expect it to cause gaps between girls and boys reading scores on national standardized tests. My own brother was a video game junky. He would hide out in the basement day and night until he conquered whatever happened to be the game of the moment. This pattern went on throughout his high school career. Yet, at twenty-three my brother is an avid reader. His top reading choices are business and current event books. Perhaps because my sister and I read a lot he eventually picked up the habit too.

I know everyone's different and I guess that is why I posted about this article. I want to hear other people's opinions and what other suggestions they have on raising boys that like to read.

Now discuss.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Step Forward

When I was probably a junior in undergrad, I went to listen to one of the many guests invited to speak on campus. I forget why exactly I went to this event, but I know it was required that I go to some event similar to that one for a class I took. The speaker's name was Gregg Michael Levoy. I cannot recall the name of the presentation or even too many specifics,however, his presentation stuck with me for several reasons. For starters, I won his book Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life in a drawing at the end of the presentation. I never win anything so I was shocked. But also, the heart of what Levoy talked about truly resonated with me. Levoy, as discussed in his book, promotes the searching for and following of one's true passion or nature. He gave the example of seven different, very successful CEOs. After interviewing them he said there was one uncanny commonality between them all. Before they began their path to great success in their respective fields they all admitted to being very scared. I can't account with certain accuracy all the different levels and reasons for being scared, but I remember that one reason was the risk of failure. Levoy went on to further talk about his own experience and more about what a true passion or calling may look like. I remember leaving the event very inspired. This feeling has stayed with me and has been my most influential push towards doing the things I love, which is to write.

I quit my first job after six months to go back to graduate school for an MFA in Creative Writing. I was still considerably young so quitting a job and going back to school didn't seem as scary. Rather the scary part of that situation was my choice of study. An MFA in Creative Writing does not seemly have a clear career path after graduation. Many people might even argue that if you wanted to write you don't even need to go to school. My doctor at the time even responded to my news with a "Huh, I guess you can go to school for anything nowadays." I have since switched doctors.

In the past two and half years I have worked part-time and pursued my MFA. It has at times been very tough and not always beneficial to the work I turn in at school. But I have worked since I was 16 years old and like the reliability of having some sort of cash flow coming in even if it is minimal. This semester however, should and can be my last if I finish my thesis. I am taking a full course load and still searching for a new job. My present job, however, seem to be complicating my desire to move forward with my writing and search for an arts administration position. Applying to jobs is sometimes more consuming than doing my homework for Lit Theory. Therefore, after much painful internal debate I did the thing most scary to me. I put in my two weeks.

I have no other job lined up just yet. Or I could argue I've finally committed to my job as a student. Whatever way you look at it, I've made a conscious decision to throw all my energy into my writing and living and working in the arts community. I was very unsure of my choice and had several moments of panic since. But then something wonderful happen. I woke up the next day and got the best email ever. One of my poems was accepted by an online journal. It was my first acceptance for a piece of literary work. I was through the roof and felt I truly made the right decision concerning work. Its amazing how motivating the acceptance makes me feel. I am still getting use to actually having the time to write and using it the best I can. But I know and feel there are only great things to come in the near future.