Like many Americans, I tuned in with great interest to watch President Obama’s Back-To-School speech on C-SPAN this Tuesday.
I loved how the speech was held live, in front of a gym full of teenagers at Wakefield High School in Arlington, VA. I loved how the crowd of kids cheered almost as loudly for senior class president Timothy Spicer, Jr.—who introduced the Obama—as they did for the President, himself. And it was great to hear the school band play “Hail to The Chief” as Obama strode into the room.
Obama’s speech was about personal responsibility and how every student must take charge of his or her own future. “I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education,” he told the crowd, “and to do everything you can to meet them.”
But just as importantly, the speech was about opportunity.
“Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.”
And, I’d like to add, that’s the opportunity that nonfiction books provide.
Nonfiction books open up the world to kids. Through exposure to a wide variety of nonfiction books, kids—whether they live in a high rise apartment in a big city, a small trailer on the edge of a tiny town, or a ranch-style home in suburbs across America, can…
…peer into a tarantula tunnel in a rainforest in South America.
…pull on flippers and follow Jacques Cousteau deep down into the Mediterranean Sea.
…board the Endurance and sail with Shackleton to Antarctica.
…learn about music, art, chemistry, physics, theater, dance, history—and learn about these subjects in exciting, inviting formats.
When teachers and librarians expose kids to a variety a topics, when parents choose nonfiction books to read at bed time, we help kids begin the process of discovering what they are good at. What they have to offer.
What a gift that is.