I recently read a fitness article that indicated that a few minutes of activity every hour or so for us sedentary desk-bound workers could accumulate into a sizeable boost in personal fitness over time. I submit that the same is true for the value of a few precious moments reading while waiting for the bus, or the dentist, or the pharmacist, or for our always late spouse or pal to arrive.
What I have called Reading Fitness has been the topic of conversation among school folks for a very long time. Under the more common name of summer slide, it comes up every spring when the prospect of children taking a reading hiatus for nearly 3 months portends a several step retreat the next school year to get them back up to speed. It’s not just a vacation, it’s almost a reading coma, resulting in badly sagging reading muscle.
How much time do kids spend doing nothing on any day? I don’t mean day dreaming of course. That’s doing something very important. We all need that. I mean waiting for something to happen or someone to show up. One minute may not sound like much, but it is certainly plenty of time to grab a magazine and fall gently into the arms of an author with a delightful story to tell or some expertise to share.
Those small change downtimes, those little packets of moments, can add up to a sizeable chunk of time across just a week. This is what magazines, comic books and paperbacks were made for. Light, easy to carry, no concern about a bent corner or a slightly cracked book spine. They readily fit into a back pocket or a purse and can be whipped out as these serendipitous free moments drop into our laps.
A bonus? If children always have a self-selected book, magazine or comic at hand, then they are never going to be bored (and whiney), they are always going to be comfortable to recede into their own little reading worlds, becoming part of an unfolding story or picking up where they left off exploring a topic of personal interest.
So, creating a culture in the family that includes the expectation that no matter “WHAT’S” not yet “UP?”. That there can always be a book stuffed into a tote, or pocket, or in hand serving as the simplest possible step in addressing and even possibly eliminating that abandonment of reading that can accumulate to as much as 3 full years’ worth of lost reading ability, experience and accumulated knowledge across a K-12 career. Kids can’t get that back without lots of hard work, taking up even more of their, and our, precious moments.