My spouse and I watch very little television beyond the news, the arts and collegiate sports. However, we do subscribe to and receive dozens of magazines at our house. They cover a myriad of subjects, like news, politics, women’s issues, health and photography. They are about literacy education, science and exploration, and cultural history, too. We intentionally pile these periodicals onto our coffee table and kitchen counter on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Sometimes they come in so fast, however, that we typically have several issues of the same publication on our coffee table at once. There are books on that table, too, which my wife and I are read together (taking turns reading aloud while the other one cooks or folds laundry). Along with two daily newspapers we receive (one is digital only), all of these publications are a presence in our lives.
It might seem like our reading agenda is out of control. But no, our commitment to stay informed about the world and expand our personal and shared interests actually frames our lives, individually and together. Our self-determined reading content inspires conversation (sometimes a spat) and lots of personal reflection. This daily reading makes us lifelong learners.
Lifelong readers, like us, are constantly acquiring new information and knowledge, but the nature of what is learned, which is personally fulfilling enough to keep us constantly scanning for a next print engagement, is shaped by choices we make and by discovering how well (or poorly) we choose. The development of that autonomy has kept us reading throughout lifetimes of learning and personal expansion.
Our choices for generating inspiration and reflection are rather unique to us. That individuality certainly didn’t come out of our cookie cutter K-12 education. We did not generate our unique tastes and personal autonomies just by succeeding in the “right-answer” curriculum. Somehow we learned to express ourselves individually in making our very own reading choices.
Lack of early autonomy in book choice can stunt early reading growth to the point at which by the teenage years, kids only read when required and pretty much stop reading for life on high school graduation day. On the other hand, children who experience early freedom of self-determination in book choice seem to naturally become lifelong readers, and thankfully in this fast changing world, lifelong learners.
The habit of avid daily reading (with the attendant learning) is inarguably the single most powerful goal for any child’s ongoing education.