I recently read about hyper-successful people who are considered Big Readers. They all, happily, read a lot…every day. There were also lists of books that rich and/or successful people (e.g., Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey) recommended. Almost all of the books were specifically focused upon developments around the success which for each famous person was notable.
In short, these folks read books about what they like—books that express their interests and talents. I think it’s safe to say that they wouldn’t choose to read a book they didn’t find personally relevant and appealing. They read what they want and they share what they read. And predictably, they always have another book waiting to be read. Some of these famous readers read 400 to 500 pages a day! No wonder they are good readers.
Sadly, however, in the average classroom. Book reading is mostly assigned and the school library’s book buffet is only made available at certain times in the day with scant assistance available for children to help them navigate the offerings.
So, at what point in the PreK to Grade 12 curriculum do we target the essential aspect of free book choice to help develop the literate lives of our children?
“Becoming a Lifelong Reader” is rarely detailed in the desired outcomes of a school’s plans for children. I often wonder why schools and some parents think that this essential affective goal just happens on its own? Why do we not think kids need help to explore possibilities of identifying and connecting with particular authors and genres they might find exciting? Many curriculum guides mention this most essential outcome, but it is rarely measured in any systematic way.
While some kids get lucky and discover early on that they love science fiction or poetry or Judy Blume, others never land on a book, genre or author that floats their boats, and their language and as a result literacy growth slows and even perhaps regresses.
How could U.S. schools suggest they have taught graduates to be Big Readers when The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently found that 50 percent of U.S. adults can’t read books written at an 8th-grade level? Mind you, these are children who can read at some basic level, but since they don’t read eagerly nor often enough, their reading level doesn’t improve. That could change if they personally connected with their books, their authors or their genres.
Let us help children make these connections by helping them find a focused range of potential book favorites. If we do, we’ll have fewer high school graduates for whom reading is just a “thing they made us do,” and more who eagerly and happily continue lifelong book reading, reaping its compounding rewards.