The amount of importance our society places on showing children the joy of reading is astounding. In my post yesterday I wrote that it was shocking to see how little the schools see the positive effects of reading to and with our children all the time. Time spent doing ditto’s and worksheets would be better spent reading and talking about the book they just read. The school system here in my city does not consider this practice ( of reading to children often) a priority. The woman I met and spoke with about reading happened to work for several of the schools in our district as a special education coordinator. The conversation was very one-sided as I shared with her the importance of handing down the joy in reading with children from generation to generation. Of all the ideas and subjects we talked about, this was the most important and it was the one that seemed to be a luxury that schools just can not provide these days. This woman not only did not get excited ( like she did when I shared our brainstorm ideas for creative writing), but she barely cared about the reading in our homeschool. Maybe I should have talked about workbooks instead… that might have gotten me a standing ovation. We use workbooks so don’t bash me for it… they are just so much less important than reading.
Do kids come out of school reading? I think so; maybe even reading well. But do they enjoy reading and once school is “out” will they continue to read for enjoyment? No, says the Kaiser Foundation survey reporting and a 1998 survey conducted by UCLA college freshmen.
While reading more about, well, reading… I found this: Sven Birkerts ( USA Today March 2005) wrote, “When I contemplate the substantial decline of literary reading, I can’t help but envision a culture increasingly impoverished in its means of expression, lacking not just means of verbal nuances, the appreciation of meanings and shades of meanings [several other things here], but also our sense of what structures best serve different needs in conversation as well as writing.” He goes on to write many profound statements using some words I don’t even know how to pronounce.
Literature remains a free-choice activity and unless we are reading twaddle (twaddle is what Charlotte Mason considers dumbed-down reading and in my humble opinion it’s different for everyone), it has yet to be manipulated by mass marketing. How many kids come home from school and spend their free time enjoying a good book? Probably not as many as some parents would love to see.
TV, movies, and video games are great. I’m a child of the 80’s and so I love my television, but it stays turned off until evening. Taking away the option to turn the TV on until later when dinner is over, works for us. The screen delivers what it promises us… messages and images that I only need show up and watch. I once read that our heartbeats are slower and we burn less calories while watching tv than we do while sitting still reading. It was a few years ago so I don’t have a source on that, but it was in some health magazine I subscribed to. While watching shows and movies, or playing games with our thumbs, we are taken on a visual and rapid-fire ride. It’s not a practice we mentally show up for and it doesn’t work our imaginations and improve our intelligence. It doesn’t do much for the human race.
With my tiny little amateur blog, I have learned quite a bit about writing and spelling. I am still learning. I graduated high school a year earlier than my peers and I had straight A’s across the board in the high school subjects. I attended high school in one of the best areas of the country with one of the best public school systems. The superior school system that I attended is actually the main reason my parents moved to the area I grew up in; so that me and my brothers could attend better schools. Unfortunately, I had problems that prevented me from attending college immediately after high school, but I am trying to prove a point here. My school was good, really good as far as public schools go… and I had good grades in the high school I attended, which was connected to the local college. Literally, it was on the same property. Having a good education did not give me a love for any of the things I do today. I did not have an understanding of our country’s history. I did not understand how electrical circuits worked. I did not know grammar enough to write an intelligent blog. It has been through homeschooling my children and reading for my own enjoyment every single day, that has educated me on everything I know today.
Writing this blog teaches me spelling and creative writing and grammar. Sometimes I will go back and edit an old blog or an old draft I never published just for practice and to improve my writing skills. I didn’t learn to express thoughts by building great sentences while in school. Instead I learned how to diagram a sentence and what an action word is called. That’s why you read mistakes in my writing all the time 🙂 All of the workbooks and all of the testing did not do for me what reading has done for me and my family. Everything I know today I learned from books. We have library cards in two different cities and I make sure to visit both each week. I have mountains of books on living a Christian life, homeschooling, parenting, and subjects that interest me… like psychology and holistic health.
My point is this… reading books is a dying past-time. It is not up to the schools to teach your children to love reading or that reading is important. It’s up to us… the parents, grandprents, & care-givers.
A really good way to connect reading with enjoyment is to carve out a special time when my son has me all to himself. No phones, no distractions, just time with me, snuggled up next to them before bedtime sharing their favorite picks with me. I love when my boys begin to develop new interests and I get to look for books to connect them with that interest. We have notebooks everywhere so ideas inspired by those books can turn into plans and artwork. It’s made reading so much fun. Something I’ve been exploring is the idea of joining a child’s book club. We belong to a homeschool group that is always up for that sort of thing. Once I feel better ( I’m riding the “sick” train again) getting the kids into a book club is at the top of my list. Complete with field trips and puppet shows (for the youngers) and art work to go along with every meet up. I’m getting really excited just thinking about it now.
I hope you have a good day and I hope that you find an amazing book to read today.