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Ocean provides the theme for Lower School’s celebration of reading

As she was growing up, Johanna (Custer) Mousa (WC ’88) knew the power that lies beneath the covers of a really good book.

“I probably spent more time outside playing and running around our woods, jumping in the creek, and chasing after my brothers (than I did reading),” said Mousa, the Lower School librarian. “However, I understood the immense value of reading as connected to the Word of God and the privilege I had of easy access to His Word.

“I did enjoy my fair share of Nancy Drew mysteries and a few of the Little House on the Prairie stories. I grew to love historical fiction, particularly surrounding World War II and the Nation of Israel. (Corrie Ten Boom’s) “The Hiding Place” and Jim Elliott’s biography, “Through Gates of Splendor,” provided the perspective of a life driven to share the gospel of Christ.

“Reading was also more than for recreation…it’s the main way I knew to learn something, to understand something beyond my little world.”

Mousa hopes young readers will also journey beyond their own “little world” as the Lower School celebrates reading March 20-24.

The sea will provide the theme and the perfect backdrop for the Lower School’s “Splash into Reading” celebration.

“We’re looking forward to having a bit of extra fun as we head into Spring Break,” said Mousa, who is in her first year as the librarian. “For our kindergarten through second-grade students, this will mean investigating and discovering ideas surrounding the oceans.

“For students in the third to sixth grade, there will still be a favorite activity of ‘Drop Everything and Read’ sprinkled throughout the week, as well as a reading challenge to accumulate 500, 700, or 1,000 extra minutes of reading for the month. Students will have a few tropically-themed out-of-uniform days.”

WC’s Celebrate Reading activities are an extension of a national education movement during March called “Read Across America,” where educators and libraries gear up to promote the value of reading across ages and curriculums.

According to a 2022 National Center for Education Statistics study, reading assessments for nine-year-old students declined dramatically during the COVID-19 epidemic. The average scores declined by five points in reading, its most significant drop since 1990.

The results of the study didn’t surprise Mousa. She said the rise of digital technology and access to information has been both “a benefit and a detriment to the concept of reading.”

“In the ‘consumption of books’ sense, reading has certainly declined in the younger ages,” Mousa said. “It takes more time, attention, and thoughtfulness to consume a written text than to observe or listen to other expressions. Reading can take work, especially if we are genuinely interested in understanding the writer’s point of view or experience.

“Being able to read also includes the ability to discern, to comprehend what is being expressed. We have lost some ability to express meaning with words, as we depend more on visual communication.”

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