What Are You Reading Today?
Today is Read Across America Day, an event run by the National Education Association. It’s not an official national holiday like Labor Day, but it’s an important day none the less because on March 2nd we take some time to remember how important it is to get kids reading. For me and my family, reading has a pretty central part in our lives. My wife and I have impressed upon our daughter one critical truth about reading: if you can read, you can learn anything.
Want to learn about dinosaurs?
How about sharks?
Time for a fairy tale?
Or maybe a story about Thor?
She can read whatever she wants. We don’t like smartphones out at the dinner table, but books are welcome.
Why We Bother With Read Across America
The benefits of reading are readily apparent to literate adults. Heck, even illiterate adults understand why it’s important because they realize what they’re missing out on by not being able to read, even if we’re just talking about product labels at the grocery store. That’s the thing that kids don’t understand because they don’t have the life experiences yet to come to that conclusion. Kids literally don’t know what they’re missing, so how can we expect them to care? Learning to read is stressful. The brain has to physically create new neurons, connecting together visual signals like the word “oranges” with experiences about oranges… their shape, texture, color, and smell. This has to happen with practically every noun, and then pile on top verbs, adjectives, adverbs… plus all the rules of grammar! It’s stressful, may cause headaches, and ultimately destroy more neurons than built. Nobody likes pain and stress. This is why so many kids are resistant to learning how to read.
One Day Isn’t Enough
Resistance can be overcome a number of ways, with a lot of people giving focus to ‘make reading fun’ or ‘give rewards for reading a book.’ I dislike those approaches because ‘fun’ and ‘rewarding’ are inherent qualities of reading. Gimmicks are a crutch, which can be useful but only for a short period of time before they become a hindrance. Instead of finding ways to make the pain and stress bearable for the kids, how about avoiding it all together? If the pain and stress come from being pushed too hard and too quickly, then don’t do those things. Instead, start reading early and take your time. To help with learning progression, read things with your child that are a bit above their reading level, and if there’s a word they don’t understand then take the time to explain it.
This is a race that is won by the slow and steady. Let today, Read Across America Day, Dr. Seuss’s birthday, be a starting point, or a restarting point, for your child’s slow and steady journey towards literacy and the infinite worlds of literature.