Consider for a moment all of the dynamics that go into the development of children who love to read books that they choose, and get delightfully focused enough to write heartfelt notes or create drawings for loved ones and friends. Consider how those simple first steps can actually create the foundations of a bright future as members of a larger, literate community.
At its core, literacy is about sharing. It can serve as the accumulating glue that holds communities together and builds lasting paths to lifelong personal growth and enduring relationships in life.
Kids who gleefully share their daily accomplishments in learning to read and write provide abundant opportunities for neighbors and family friends to discuss the whole enterprise of literacy growth, its immediate importance to the child and its growing value as they mature. Rushing into a room, book in hand needing to know what a word means, or waving an early draft of an important letter or piece of artwork, children signal their appreciation of the power of using various media and the role the rest of us can play in ensuring they progress in mastering it.
Accomplished, mature authors and illustrators use their abundant literacies in hopes of creating an experience or memory that will contribute to others’ lives. Children, on the path to such accomplishment, begin by taking the first steps in discovering the potentials of communication using print and an expanding range of media.
The natural sharing and discussion by adults of their learning to read and write, and/or of particularly memorable books, reading and writing experiences, adds literate activity to daily conversations, energizing everyone they know.
A friend of mine recently shared a sweet note written by his daughter decades ago when she was in Kindergarten. I responded: “You’ve kept it for all these years? Isn’t that the sweetest thing ever! How’s she doing in her new job?”
Well, we don’t have to guess about how my friend’s daughter is doing. She’s doing fine since she wrote that now faded note, framed with little hearts and flowers. With the help of her friends and neighbors, she learned to find and enjoy personally appealing books, to discuss them with peers and her teachers, to adopt and master the language and insights the authors of those books have shared into her self expression, and to use their ideas for reflecting upon her growing sense of who she was back then, who she is now, and who she will become.
When children grow up in a family that treasures books and reading, they learn the value of deep discussions with neighbors and friends, and of the rich information and powerful ideas they can gain from that informal education.
With that foundation, every child and their neighbors will find their very own fulfilling and rewarding ways into maturity.