A Lifelong Love of Reading

Reading can’t be forced, or rushed. For some, it takes time to develop a love for reading. Reading must first be explored and enjoyed. This is especially true for beginning readers, as too often reading turns too quickly into a task by teachers and a chore by parents.

This may sound just plain crazy, as there are countless state standards and reading comprehension skill to develop and oh my goodness, so much more. Believe it or not, but a child can develop these skills without all the mandated library books and the countless activities. Now, activities are a good thing—they’ve helped many children struggling with reading, but the goal here is to get them to read first and like it.
Ruth Cox Clark, an associate professor in the Department of Library Science at East Carolina University, wrote an article called “Readicide—Killing the Love of Reading in Schools” recently published in Knowledge Quest—a literary journal covering the functionality of libraries and education. Clark argues, “By narrowly defining what is considered ‘allowable reading,’ educators and parents basically have stymied the essential stage in literary appreciation…”
A typical elementary classroom that makes a trip to the library nowadays is given specific directions on which books they are “allowed” to read. School libraries do this by color coordinating with dots or sometimes shelves.
The problem is: children spend more time trying to find a book they can even check-out rather than a book they want to actually read. And this is not fun.
When a child finds a book they are interested in, Cox explains, “No one is watching/listening as they skip a word and determine what it means by context,…No one knows they are reading aloud in their heads during a difficult passage.”
In other words, assigned and highly monitored reading, especially for young children—can hinder the same reading skills teachers spend hours trying to teach. If a child is caught up in a book on reptiles learning how exactly they shed their skin, they’ll re-read the passage to understand it better, without anyone telling them to because there’s a desire to understand.
The bigger problem is: beginning readers need to develop a pleasure for reading before they are bombarded with mandated reading books or are prohibited to others. In other words, they need to develop a liking for reading first. A child spends time reading and working through mandated material in class already and so the library, therefore, should be a place of freedom and exploration to find a book that ignites a deeper interest.
If you or someone you know is having trouble with getting a child to find their enjoyment for reading, the first thing to do is spend a few hours at the library with no rules on what books they can or cannot check-out. Unless of course, your 7 year-old is lugging Moby Dick to the check-out desk. If any rule should exist, it should be that they must pick out a book that pertains to their interests.
This concept for beginning readers to pick out a book is not new.
In a list of recommendations on how to encourage your child to read, Scholastic recommends at the top that a parent first identify their child’s interests and find books in those areas.
Best known for his book “Middle School: The Worst Time of My Life,” best-selling author James Patterson writes “The best way to get kids reading more is to give them books that they’ll gobble up — and that will make them ask for another. Yes, it’s that simple. 1 + 1 = 2. Kids say the No. 1 reason they don’t read more is that they can’t find books they like. Freedom of choice is a key to getting them motivated and excited.”
So why don’t teachers follow this!? Why don’t parents follow this!? (Fists banging the table). The point is, whether it’s a teacher, parent, grandma, uncle, or friend—a child needs to be taken to libraries and bookstores and encouraged by someone to pick whatever book that can hold their attention (as long as it is appropriate, of course).
That’s how to create a life-long lover of reading.
By Christie Sosa