Book Passages

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library 8Very young children can’t be avid readers in the fullest sense of the term. They can be excited by books and about the closeness they feel when loved ones read with them. If they have had lots of experience with good books they can certainly be admirers of books and be drawn to open them and to take a look. But that’s not avid reading.

Being avid in the way that lifelong readers are avid comes most often at the end of a complex evolutionary passage.

Avid reading is not passing infatuation with the media we call books, nor with a particular, favorite book or author. Rather, the relationship with books and the written word must be enduring. The reader must feel the flow of language and its accompanying images pull her out of her day-to-day life and into quite new, otherwise unavailable experiences.

Additionally, avid, self-directed reading is not about a particular reading event. Avid reading is deeper and wider than that. Young children who consume picture books one after another, much like I eat potato chips, are discovering books’ truly enriching nature. They are learning to enjoy the marriage of art and word blended into brief stories or expositions. They are developing a lasting appetite for reading.

At some point, howeverlibary 6, kids will latch onto THEIR BOOK. This favorite book can move their reading intensity to a higher level. Such favorite books quicken the pulse, offering visceral pleasure and a comfortable opportunity to investigate how speech and print are related. These books are the catalyst for a watershed change in this literary relationship, putting the child on the doorstep of independent reading.

Mature, avid readers who are advanced in this literacy journey have evolved into long-haul, marathon readers. They live their lives labeled as readers, lifelong learners, dedicated adventurers, wandering and investigating life through the glorious world of print and image. They are eager to open new books and enjoy the journeys  authors and illustrators have created for their enjoyment and edification. Avid readers find themselves almost breathless in anticipation when entering a bookstore or library, being on the threshold of discovering their next adventure.

College recruiters and human resources agents, seeking thinkers, problem solvers and risk takers  could do worse than to ask each interviewee, “What are you reading? What books on your nightstand?” For the majority of applicants, they will get darting-eyes and a little too much silence prior to a canned answer. But from top candidates, they’ll hear about depth in intellectual curiosity that could be nurtured into not just a scholar or an employee, but a contributor, invested in the continued personal growth that is a hallmark of a leader.

At the end of birth to grade 12 education, ideally all young adults should be avid, self-directed, readers and learners having traveled through these book passages.

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4 Responses to “Book Passages”

  1. Elizabeth Nonweiler April 25, 2017 at 3:14 am #

    I agree with this.

    It is important to emphasise the first two separate steps to avid reading:

    1) Listen to others reading a wide range of books you enjoy.

    2) Learn to read words so easily, that you read nearly all of them automatically and forget about how to read them. Then you can go directly to the meaning of the language.

    The quickest way to learn to read words easily and automatically is by being taught systematically and rigorously through an effective phonics programme.

    • Mark Condon April 25, 2017 at 8:39 pm #

      The problem of course is that reading words is not all we really want, Elizabeth. We want them to read books and enjoy them and choose to read a next book when they finish one. Reading words can just be SAYING words and that isn’t actually reading. Reading is making personal sense of language which is presented in print and words only have sense when they are in a coherent sentence that is understood. But phonics can certainly help with that. We just never want to take our eye off the ultimate goal…. self-determined daily habit of book reading.

  2. Yamin May 5, 2017 at 9:44 am #

    Dear Dr. Condon,

    I am a student at the University of ArizonaI in Tucson. I heard about your and your work from Dr. Patricia L. Anders, a professor in Reading at the LRC program in the University. She shared about your work bringing together parents or community to provide sources for reading for their children in countries where books are very limited. She added that your work helping community write about the folklore, legend, fables, and any interesting things that available locally.

    I am from an island called Buton, the eastern part of Indonesia and I plan to be an advocate in reading once I return back to the island. Currently, my country has low-literacy. A research shows that our literacy level is the second rank from behind, and according to UNESCO, our reading index is just 0.001(one reader in a thousand people).

    I wonder if I can be in touch more with you and learn about your work so I can help provide resources for my community later on.

    Yamin (

    • Mark Condon May 5, 2017 at 10:18 am #

      Thanks for sharing your interest here, Yamin. I would be delighted to connect with you on issues of love of books and self-directed reading in Buton and elsewhere in your country. That kind of personal connection is the foundation for creating and maintaining a culture of reading in any community. Absent that aspect in a culture, literacy and the lifelong learning and freedom that it brings are unlikely to grow and flourish.