Sept. 8, 2016 Update For International Literacy Day, I’m reprising the award-winning Will Smith “Running and Reading: Key to Life” video as it still holds up even a decade later…
Presented at the Kids’ Choice awards back in 2005, Will Smith used his clout and credibility to rock the stage with literacy and life tips that exemplify how high profile influencers can use their platforms for positive messages that resonate and inspire. In our celebrity drenched culture, we could use more of this type of upstanding, reframing the narrative to topics that matter vs vapid values, gossip and raunch culture.
Here are a couple more posts for International Literacy Day to nudge ‘reluctant readers’ using marketing tactics and to choose diverse, thought-provoking lenses and approaches, from graphic novels to popular interests, all in an effort to just “Read, Kiddo, Read!”
Teen Read Week 2008 kicks off today, with this year’s theme “Books That Bite.” I’ll be featuring Readergirlz planned ‘Nite Bites’ author chats for theYALSA and ALA Teen Read book week, but first I want to give a ‘shout out’ as the kids would say to Will Smith and his inspiring speech to kids a few years ago (when Shaping Youth was a glimmer in my mind’s eye)…Will Smith won the Kids’ Choice Awards ’05 and his amped up excitement about reading and running as “the key to life” made me see how the power of media and ‘celebrity fixation’ could be flipped on its ear to change the channel of influence toward HEALTHY cues for kids.
I remember thinking, “whoa, that’s the kind of energy we need to harness to shift the momentum into POSITIVE media, fighting fire with fire in a flamethrower use of his fame and starpower to get kids READING (and running!) revved up in ‘pursuit of happiness’ (won’t misspell it even for the movie’s sake, sorry)
His READING-RUNNING video is still up on YouTube with about 250,000 hits where he imparts the value of the dual ‘key to life’ philosophic sound bites set to DJ Jazzy Jeff’s “For Da Love of Da Game” along with the haunting refrain that has become my guiding light, “Love what you do…do what you love.”
Running + reading = the key to life.
In ‘Simon says—Will Smith says’ mode, here’s his youth appeal to kids as to the whys…
He talks about the little voice inside your head when you feel like your lungs are gonna pop and you want to give up, tired and exhausted and hurting, like you can’t go on…
If you can “rise above that voice, and defeat that person inside you” to move forward, you’ll be served well by the triumph of tenacity and hard work to give you the coping skills and resiliency needed as a ‘key to life.’ (ok, those last words were mine not his, but that was the gist)
“There IS no new problem that you can have…with parents, with school, with a bully, with anything that someone hasn’t already solved or written about in a book…”
It’s a welcome dose of much-needed perspective, so I won’t quibble on the accuracy.
He’s breaking the cycle of self-absorption and myopic despair that all too often feels ‘new’ with teens, by citing historic precedent of the scads and gazillions of people AND books that have come long before us all. That’s rational, level-headed reasoning that’s often absent from the hypefest of media drama served fresh daily, from news to Nickelodeon. Bravo, Will.
He re-establishes that it’s all ‘far from new’ in the cultural zeitgeist, encouraging kids to seek camraderie within the inter-connected weavings and words of authors who have put pen to page many years before some of these adolescents were even born.
I love the way he positions the hope and promise of possibility within the pages. His ebullience almost spills out of him with seemingly old-fashioned words of wisdom, encouraging hard work, persistence and perspective. Gosh…who knew, eh?
So, welcome to Teen Read Week, and thanks Will Smith, for kicking off this one for me with a message as relevant for kids today as it was when you pumped that silly orange blimp in the air with winning glee!
More on Teen Read Week tomorrow with our friends at Readergirlz and their vampy/campy/fun “Night Bites” to go with the 2008 “Books That Bite” theme and live chats with authors on their site. Meanwhile…
Vote for your 2008 Teen Top Ten, (through Saturday at midnight!) help choose the theme for 2009 Teen Read Week…and enter your Teen Read Week events in the Best Teen Read Week Celebration Contest, courtesy of AdLit.org (Adolescent Literature; Teen Read Week Nonprofit Supporter), Mirrorstone Books (Teen Read Week Corporate Sponsor) and YALSA! (Young Adult Library Services Association)
Will Smith nailed it in his video message to the millions of kids watching…
Reading is a reward in itself.
And it may not the ‘the key to life,’ but it’s certainly a major chapter. “Love what you do, and do what you love…” Off to read…
Shaping Youth’s Related Resources
Visual Credit: Will Smith photo: Getty Images, Readergirlz.com Night Bites