When I was a child in school—a thousand years ago—we were taken weekly to the library and encouraged to find books we could enjoy for that week. The following week, we’d return the previous week’s choices, swapping them for a new set of books.
Early on, when a book report was called for, or I was assigned to make a poster or maybe a diorama depicting some key scene in the book, it became clear to me that it was considered most important that I had actually read the book…whether I liked it or not.
Being saddled with my own bad choices of books that I’d have to drag around for an entire week became a central concern. That was especially challenging when, 10 pages in, I discovered that I was not keen on the book’s material and I knew I didn’t want to finish it.
I can still hear my teacher saying, “Did you finish your book?”
And my response, “Uhhhh….”
Those words echo in my head when I encounter a book on a table or shelf at home with a bookmark protruding out of the top. It’s then I know the book was one I started to read but never finished. Emotionally I immediately revert back to being that goofy 4th-grade kid, eyes darting around to verify I haven’t yet been discovered as the fraud reader that I am.
Then I see my cat watching me and realize that, “Wait! No! I’m a grownup! I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do, most particularly finish a book when it lacked something I enjoyed.” After all, book reading is not about finishing. It’s about loving our book choices and rejecting the rest.
Kids make mistakes. Actually they should be encouraged to do so. It’s how they’ll learn many important things. When it comes to reading, they’ll learn to embrace their own personal reading passions, especially if they have more experienced readers to encourage them through that discovery phase.
I have friends who like to read books about ancient history or battlefield heroics. Others are dedicated readers of books about families and the intricacies of human relationships. But not me. Bookstores and libraries are full of books I’d never choose but others LOVE! Good for them.
Regardless of what my friends like to read, I am completely independent with my book choices. I find authors that I like and then systematically read everything they have written, soaking up their rich language, their captivating ideas and riveting experiences.
Over time, I have learned to be my very own one-of-a-kind, lifelong, book reader. My education never ends.
A passion about reading and books like mine begs the questions: How do we come to treasure what it is that got us excited to read? How do we make sure that every child learns what kinds of books rev their engines and where they can easily find the next one?
The answers to these questions involve a simple action: CHOICE. Lifelong readers all learned to love books and reading because they were allowed to make their very own reading choices—poor choices and fantastic ones—refining their taste in selecting books by sampling many genres.
We grow lifelong readers by helping kids learn to excitedly choose what they want to read.