Inveterate, incurable readaholic, who blogs about books and what's in 'em. If readaholism is a deadly disease, no problem. Couldn't imagine a better way to go.
Whenever I reminisce about my childhood love of reading, my beloved grandmother looms large. As a very young child, I remember climbing into her king-size bed on Sunday mornings and being mesmerized as she read me the funnies.
Once when I was older and had nothing to read, she directed me to her walk-in closet, where lay hidden, like the buried treasure of a sunken ship, a treasure trove of books. And though she no longer read by then, we still shared our love of books by talking about them.
Still, if pressed, I would not say my grandmother awakened or instilled in me a love of reading. Rather, I think she exposed me to it, and I took to it like a duck to water, simply because I had a natural affinity to the written word and stories. And while many might ask Why’s that matter, as a former NYC public school teacher, I think the difference matters tremendously.
You see, for the 4+ years I taught, I watched in dismay as books and reading were pretty much crammed down students throats from kindergarten on – all in the name of engendering a love of books and reading.
For almost the entire morning, 5 days a week, children were either read to, read by themselves, read with partners, or read aloud. After reading, their task was to write a response to what they had read in their journals. One could hear the collective groan as they set about their task.
And so I watched as children rather than developing a love of reading came to hate the process and see it as a chore to be gotten through as best they could. This got me thinking about the school district’s vow to instill a love of reading in every child. First, is it possible? Next, is it necessary? Does everyone need to love to read?
In my opinion, everything is not for everyone. Just like we cannot make someone love us, we cannot make all children love reading. Just like my father could not make me want to play a musical instrument, one can’t make a child want to read. We all have our likes and dislikes, and for me that is what make the world an interesting place. That is what has helped us progress. We all have our strengths and interests.
In my mind, children don’t need to love to read. They simply need to know HOW to read. They need to know how to read for comprehension, how to read for analysis, how to read for everyday life. None of that means they have to love to read.
Knowing how to read and loving to read are two different things, and for my money, schools should stick to accomplishing the former and let children decide what they love and what interests them for themselves. As adults, our job is to expose children to ideas and possibilities, not to mold and press them like a baker with a cookie cutter all into the same shape.
What do you think?
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