Tuesday, March 2, 2021

National Read Across America Day

The National Education Association established National Read Across America Day in 1998 with a main aim of encouraging children to read.

If you love to read and spend a lot of time with books, you may not always consider what a privilege it is to be able to read. But due to a variety of reasons, this isn’t the case for all people.

Though 1 in 5 American adults are literate, 52% read at or under a basic level. That means that most of Americans read at under a ninth grade reading level. To put that into perspective, most legally binding contracts are written at or above an eleventh grade reading level, which means that 52% of American adults might not fully understand important contracts they need to sign. For a larger perspective, 1 in 5 people in the world cannot read or write at all.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reading for pleasure has been on the decline since the 1980s. Perhaps you can guess one of the major reasons? Between 1955 and 1995 in the Netherlands, there was a long term study on literacy. Researchers found a correlation between the proliferation of television with the decline of reading for leisure.

Additionally, an American Time Use Survey found that Americans watch TV for an average of 2 hours and 45 minutes per day—nearly 10 times the amount of time spent reading for personal pleasure. So even if you read on a daily or even weekly basis, National Read Across America Day is an important reminder to celebrate literacy and spread awareness.

If you are able, you might consider donating to nonprofits and charity foundations that work to promote literacy and provide resources for those in need. Here are a few excellent groups to check out:

  • Reading Is Fundamental is the nation’s largest children’s literacy nonprofit, aiming to inspire “passion for reading among all children, provide quality content to make an impact, and engage communities.”
  • Literacy for Incarcerated Teens works to “end illiteracy among New York’s incarcerated young people by inspiring them to read.”
  • World Literacy Foundation “strives to ensure that every young individual regardless of geographic location has the opportunity to acquire literacy skills to reach their full potential, succeed at school and beyond.”
  • Room to Read “seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in low-income communities by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education.”
  • Book Aid International, whose mission is “to provide books, resources and training to support an environment in which reading for pleasure, study and lifelong learning can flourish.”

To celebrate National Read Across America Day the LOHF team, who are located all over the United States, will be reading, of course! Here is what the team has on the books:

Jen and Laurie are reading Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica.

This is also our readalong book for March! If you’d like to join in, find us on Goodreads and tag your photos and posts with #LOHFReadalong.

Synopsis: His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing.

Then one day he’s given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he’s aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost—and what might still be saved.

Cassie is reading The Bell Chime by Mona Kabbani.

Synopsis: “Can you hear the bell chime?”

A girl suffering from paralyzing night terrors finds a missing poster hanging from the door of her apartment building. On that poster is a photograph of a frighteningly familiar face.

It’s her.

Only, she’s never seen this photo before and something about its grin scares her. How its eyes seem to follow her no matter where she finds herself in the room.

Over a series of strange events to follow—events that will make her question whether her sanity is still there or fleeting—she must discover:

What is real and what is the nightmare?

Emily is reading Lakewood by Megan Giddings.

Synopsis: When Lena Johnson’s beloved grandmother dies, and the full extent of the family debt is revealed, the black millennial drops out of college to support her family and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan.

On paper, her new job is too good to be true. High paying. No out of pocket medical expenses. A free place to live. All Lena has to do is participate in a secret program—and lie to her friends and family about the research being done in Lakewood. An eye drop that makes brown eyes blue, a medication that could be a cure for dementia, golden pills promised to make all bad thoughts go away.

The discoveries made in Lakewood, Lena is told, will change the world—but the consequences for the subjects involved could be devastating. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family.

Tracy is reading Goddess of Filth by V. Castro.

Synopsis: One hot summer night, best friends Lourdes, Fernanda, Ana, Perla, and Pauline hold a séance. It’s all fun and games at first, but their tipsy laughter turns to terror when the flames burn straight through their prayer candles and Fernanda starts crawling toward her friends and chanting in Nahuatl, the language of their Aztec ancestors. 

Over the next few weeks, shy, modest Fernanda starts acting strangely—smearing herself in black makeup, shredding her hands on rose thorns, sucking sin out of the mouths of the guilty. The local priest is convinced it’s a demon, but Lourdes begins to suspect it’s something else—something far more ancient and powerful. 

As Father Moreno’s obsession with Fernanda grows, Lourdes enlists the help of her “bruja Craft crew” and a professor, Dr. Camacho, to understand what is happening to her friend in this unholy tale of possession-gone-right. 

Audra is reading Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror from the 1890s to the Present by Robin R. Means Coleman.

Synopsis: From King Kong to Candyman, the boundary-pushing genre of the horror film has always been a site for provocative explorations of race in American popular culture. In Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from 1890’s to Present, Robin R. Means Coleman traces the history of notable characterizations of blackness in horror cinema, and examines key levels of black participation on screen and behind the camera. She argues that horror offers a representational space for black people to challenge the more negative, or racist, images seen in other media outlets, and to portray greater diversity within the concept of blackness itself.

Horror Noire presents a unique social history of blacks in America through changing images in horror films. Throughout the text, the reader is encouraged to unpack the genre’s racialized imagery, as well as the narratives that make up popular culture’s commentary on race.

Toni is reading Bluebeard’s First Wife by Ha Seong-nan.

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Synopsis: Disasters, accidents, and deaths abound in Bluebeard’s First Wife. A woman spends a night with her fiancé and his friends, and overhears a terrible secret that has bound them together since high school. A man grows increasingly agitated by the apartment noise made by a young family living upstairs and arouses the suspicion of his own wife when the neighbors meet a string of unlucky incidents. A couple moves into a picture-perfect country house, but when their new dog is stolen, they become obsessed with finding the thief, and in the process, neglect their child. Ha’s paranoia-inducing, heart-quickening stories will have you reconsidering your own neighbors.

Toni is one of our LOHF Admins. Toni hosts the Ladies of Horror Fiction podcast, manages our guest posts, and oversees community outreach and communications for the LOHF team.

You can also find Toni on her blog The Misadventures of a Reader, Twitter as @Toni_The_Reader, and Instagram as @toni_the_reader.

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