Instead of using “reading” books, the recommendation is to fill classrooms with books rich in age-appropriate subject matter (e.g., science, mathematics, the social studies and humanities, the arts, etc.). The argument is that using books of random content designed for merely improving students’ reading test levels until 3rd grade haven’t worked for schools or children. The better tack recommends that children read books with valuable subject matter to get better at reading. That in turn will positively impact biannual test scores.
Not being much of a test score fan anyway, this got me thinking about what it takes to actually educate a child to be a lifelong, avid reader, regardless of the reading level children may have attained by the time they graduate or just quit attending school. With Lifelong, avid reading as the primary educational goal for schools, what instruction could instill a hunger for learning that continues long after formal schooling is over.
Like any skill, reading gets better with practice. So it stands to reason that lifelong avid readers will become better and better at reading, lifelong literacy learners, while growing more fully informed about the world.
Now the question is, “what does it take for school finishers to become lifelong learners who use reading as a primary means for personal enjoyment and ongoing education?” Here are some answers:
- Children will have to learn what print is and how it works while they are enjoying books rich in academic content.
- They must learn how books work and what independently choosing and reading good books can do for them, personally.
- They must have sufficient delightful experiences with books and reading.
- They must develop a strong sense of their own independence as learners.
- They need to develop a personal sense of books as natural sources of recreation and information.
- They must learn the full use of their local and school libraries.
- Early on they must experience at least one “home run” book, one that captures their imaginations and instills a yearning for similar books.
- Most teachers and many parents have encountered children who love to be read to, yet have no ambition to learn to read for themselves. They haven’t yet discovered the power and reward of independent, free-choice reading. To become readers they must learn to enjoy that for themselves.
- And note that quiet, reserved and troubled children will require even more direct action to connect them with wonderful, individually appropriate books.
Don’t you think that students who graduate or even just leave school with strong personal foundations in self-determined reading of excellent books would surely be a better outcome for schools to seek than merely to face grinding out another year of slightly less-disappointing test scores by mostly below-proficient readers?