Many kids can read just fine, they just don’t read books. This is not okay, because books are irreplaceable sources of learning, language and literacy development. Consider that twenty-seven percent of adults were willing to share that they did NOT read a book last year. Non-reading kids grow up to become non-reading adults.
Of course, many circumstances contribute to folks attaining a basic reading level but never moving beyond that to become real readers. They can manage a trip to the grocery and successfully navigate documents necessary for their survival, but their lifelong learning and conceptual growth is pretty much restricted to what they experience each day. Perhaps more importantly, their personal inquiries are limited to the use of resources that portend to specifically address a focused question or immediate issue.
This doesn’t have to be the case, however. There is a powerful means—kind of like magic—to lead them to become lifelong readers.
It goes something like this: At some point a man finds himself in need of information about some topic when he serendipitously encounters material that takes him into another realm, one that ignites a small fire of personal interest. At that point he is at a crossroads. If the new information or idea he has inadvertently uncovered is sufficiently compelling, he just might dwell on that book, story, magazine or website a bit longer, only partially sating a hunger that heretofore he didn’t know he had. From the perspective of literacy educators, THAT is THE magic moment.
Good teachers and sharp parents know that every child has the potential for such enchantment, almost every day. It is a time when the glimmer of a new preception of books is ignited. At that moment, teachers and families can pour gasoline on that spark and dance with their child around it, or they can pour water on it and walk away. If neither of these occurs, then perhaps later in the day or in the week, while the embers of inquiry still glow, adults can fan and nurse that fire back to life. These are the critical points at which we adults have to pay attention to what the child is showing us, like when her eyes linger on a page after the bell has rung or supper has been announced. Here is the moment that the shimmer of a whole new life of learning and exploration can be glimpsed, and with some quick thinking about books we know (perhaps with help from a librarian), we can offer the child additional books about their topic of interest which might turn into a whole new beginning as readers and learners.
We can help conjure these magical moments. We just have to be keen observers of children, kid watchers, who pay attention and participate with them, regardless of their age, in discovering the enriching potential of books which in turn help them follow their dreams.