What ultimate dream do you have for the education of your children or for your students? Not in a sense of grades or school reputation, but with a focus on the likelihood they’ll lead fulfilling lives.
What if every youngster you know receives an education that establishes some degree of comfort in discussing any topic, and in picking up and enjoying any book they choose to read? As a result of that foundation, they could confidently be able to engage in meaningful discourse about any topic and easily navigate any text so that they are eager and fulfilled in finding what they are seeking. And if some subject area, topic, career, discipline or area of inquiry ends up creating a strong focus or sparks something in their souls, they are able to enthusiastically pursue formal or casual education, maturing into a personally exciting career path or even just a fascinating hobby. Whatever they select to explore in life, they are likely to succeed!
If we provide children with that kind of education, it doesn’t matter what academic or career or service paths they might choose to follow.
That would be cool, huh? That would count as educational success.
The problem, of course, is that while some children do emerge from formal education with a solid foundation for lifelong learning, most kids leave formal schooling without much of that at all.
There are dozens of ways that schools determine what subject matter should be taught and how, but there seems to be very little conversation or focus about ensuring that every child “earns” the bold descriptors in the paragraph above. It does happen, but it is rare.
We know that a majority of children who love books and love reading them tend to perform proficiently on yearly literacy assessments. We also know that an even larger number of children, those who do not become avid readers and do not happily anticipate reading self-selected books, most often don’t perform all that well on the annual assessments.
So how might schools ensure that the great majority of their students end up with bright futures?
I suggest it’s by NOT focusing only on improving grade level reading, which tends to dissuade kids from loving books and developing the habits of daily reading. Rather, us teachers and parents should intentionally support individual children’s affective growth, arm in arm with academic progress. If we do that, we can almost ensure every child achieves emotionally rewarding results.