On my last day of fieldwork with Mr. Completo, the librarian at a span school in Cudahy, CA, I asked him what he thought the most important aspect of his job was. He paused for a moment and then showed me a quote he found said by Jackie Kennedy Onassis,
There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.
He said that no matter what we do students will get instruction on the mechanics of reading in their classrooms, but instilling the love of reading is one of the hardest but most important things we can do. A love of reading can inspire a lifetime of curiosity and learning. It can be the difference between pursuing a better paying job, going to college, finding your purpose, connecting with others in meaningful ways, experiencing intellectual challenge, pursuing personal growth, self-actualization and self-sufficiency.
Daniel Willinghem tells parents, change the conversation about why kids should read. Make it about loving to learn, not about doing better in school. And let them read whatever they want. Making judgement calls even if you know they are choosing to read crappy fiction will do more damage then letting it ride as long as it needs to until they’re ready for something more demanding, challenging, literary or informational.
If there really is a steady decline in the number of students reading for fun starting as early as the third grade, how do you entice students back into the world of stories when they have already moved past puberty or have reached adulthood? When they have had so many negative experiences with reading, is it possible to successfully encourage an adult student who has had decades of reading failures to try to enjoy reading? As mentioned in a previous post, Kate Messner says read-alouds are a great way to accomplish this. Others say exposure and giving students choice. For parents, having a purpose that is outside of themselves can be both motivating and can lead to greater reading enjoyment. My dad who read to my brother and I as we grew up often said he came to enjoy some of the stories he loathed as a child; that reading them to us gave him a newfound appreciation for the characters and plot.