Early on, children learn that certain activities in the home and in school are protected by boundaries. They learn that some activities you just don’t interrupt, like the watching of a favorite TV show or big ball games, or phone or text conversations.
As humans, we establish reverence for activities we deem important. We then establish an invisible wall of “off limit’ness” around them and convey that “off limit’ness” within the culture of families and classrooms.
At some point we’ve all learned to recognize and respect siblings’ and adults’ boundaries during times when they are experiencing delight, drama or wonder in their lives. For example, we learned early on that when mom or dad are on the phone, they must never be disturbed…or else.
Establishing solid protocols signals children and others in the family of exactly what perimeters should not be crossed. This should operate not just for the adult activities, but also for the critical activities of even the smallest children.
One common, but critical event that should signal protected time is each person’s daily reading. The magic of books, and gleeful focus upon the captivating work of the researchers, artists, photographers, and storytellers that create them, can be a special event in anyone’s days. When siblings and adults honor children’s independent reading times, children learn to honor others’ special times as well.
In homes and in classrooms, the small daily steps children take in becoming lifelong readers must not be greeted with merely an, “Oh, good for you, Honey” pat on the head. Rather, it signals the need for an ongoing public recognition and enduring reverence for the laying of their intellectual foundations, firmly if slowly establishing each child’s life as an independent thinker and learner. Creating themselves as readers is not a single “How nice, she can read!” event. It is a glacial, long-time shift for a child that must never be taken for granted. It must be lovingly shepherded within an ongoing and reverent recognition of her flowering personhood. Nurturing her hard work and her resulting enhanced clarity of vision over time, as she evolves from valuing bedtime books to treasuring her lifelong personal study and reflection, is on us.
Creating such an ethos around literacy carries over into all of life. Having one’s life-agenda respected at any age, builds the individual’s character, and nourishes children into becoming uniquely important parts of their various communities. We must protect and encourage their constant and consistent connection to their literacy, fortifying their strong self-concepts of independence, their potentials for lifelong learning and their sense of belonging, not just in body, but importantly, as honored, welcome contributors.