With the 2014 World Series in full swing, a dear friend of mine from Louisville, Kentucky, thought it appropriate to send me a clipping from that city’s newspaper; it celebrates a young lady named Zen Kweli. She’s a kindergartener who has achieved what most children (and many adults) never do. She’s read 1,000 unique books…and she did it before she entered her first day of school.
Now that’s “batting 1,000!”*
Of course her loving, resourceful and supportive mother had set the tone for this little girl’s reading success and predictably her ultimate school achievement by dedicating herself to supporting her little one in reaching this admirable milestone. Mom joyfully took her to their local library until they had read all of the picture books there. Then they graduated to the main library and finally added a library across the Ohio River in Indiana and several bookstores to find sufficient new reads for Zen.
So before day #1 of her kindergarten career, Zen was an avid and able reader. Anyone who reads that much (or plays a sport that much or enjoys a musical instrument that much) is going to be not just capable, but is likely to grow to love and seek more of what they do so well.
The newspaper article doesn’t share much detail about Zen’s actual academic achievements. After all, it’s just a few months into her first school year, but here are some sure-fire bets about Zen:
- She has an immense and complex vocabulary.
- She has encountered a huge amount of information about the world, its people and cultures.
- She understands a lot about science and history and geography, and has seen a range of artistic media.
- If she hasn’t yet begun to write (but I bet that she has), she has the foundation to become a great writer from very early on.
- She’s started and she’ll stay at the top of her class all the way through school.
Now, these results are not the focus of any established must do curriculum for nervous parents. They are the natural results of raising children who get hooked on books.
With that in mind, it is not necessary for every parent to feel obligated to exhaust all of the resources in the local libraries and bookstores before their child enters school.
It is not necessary for each child to read 1,000 unique books.
Nor is it even necessary for kids to read a particular number of books before the end of elementary school.
What is necessary is that families commit themselves to develop and maintain a culture of reading, which is exactly what Zen’s mom has worked so hard to do.
In such households with such a culture, family members:
- Enjoy reading books, some alone and some together
- Enjoy their books every day
- Have an automatic default tendency to pick up a book they are currently reading
- Learn lots and love to talk about what they learned through reading
- Have fun together around the ideas and experiences that books bring into the home.
Such school success is not magic. It’s a natural consequence of a simple family decision that reading books matters, and it’s available in every family that has access to abundant books.
All kids have to do then, is enjoy stepping up to the plate every day.