Creating Passionate Readers; Engaging Passionate Learners


On the platform, reading

Image by moriza via Flickr


Yesterday I watched as my seven-year-old daughter did her required 20 minutes of reading.  The 20 minutes were not finished when she sighed and said, “I wonder how long I’ve been reading.” As soon as the time was up, she closed the book and went on to her next thing.

My heart broke a little.

I read. Depending on what I’m reading, I can go through piles of books a week. Or sometimes I focus on just one: savoring every word, picturing every moment, getting lost in the language. Of course, I have my times of getting sucked into movies and television as well, and my daughter knows that. But books have always been my escape, my comfort, my best friends.

Sarah knows I love books. She loves to have me read to her. She loves getting new books from the library. She loves all these things, yet somehow she doesn’t love reading. She does not get lost in the books, letting time pass in the blink of an eye. She doesn’t fall asleep dreaming about her favorite characters and the adventures they might be having.  I wonder if she is better off, or is she missing something truly valuable.

When I changed my Facebook status to reflect on this question, an interesting discussion started.

My husband blamed himself and the internet. He was not much of a reader until I came along, and now his interest in books has grown. The internet is a time sucker for us all. But, is reading blogs and articles on-line less valuable than reading books?  What about playing games which challenge her thinking and math abilities? In our society, it seems important to develop internet skills, as so much is done through social networking, and so much information is gained through access to the vast resources on the web. So perhaps it isn’t the time suck that I think it s.

Two friends responded that her love of reading will develop over time. I’m sure that is a possibility in that her interests change and grow daily. But, I also see her following the trends of friends, and that doesn’t always include books.

Two friends commented on the idea that education today squeezes all the joy out of reading because of making it a chore or a punishment. Students are required to read so many minutes, to keep logs, to write journals, and to read from required reading lists. Reading then becomes a chore rather than a pleasure or, as I view it, a reward.

It makes me sad to realize that learning isn’t fun for most kids. Maybe it never was. Maybe I was one of those strange children who loved learning just because I did. I still love it; that is why I read. But I see the possibility that my daughter won’t find the same joy. Learning is a chore, not because she’ not smart (she is) but because there is some subtle competition or pressure going on in her education that feels wrong.  To me, it seems like we should be less concerned with timing the reading and more concerned with having her enjoy, comprehend, and learn from what she reads. Yesterday she was more concerned with time than reading.

In the same way, I see her struggle with timed math tests. How many answers can she get correct in three minutes? She doesn’t do well on those, but if you give her time to think about her problems she does fine.

In a way, it seems, that the only thing we are teaching our children is that fast time and quantity are more important than quality and enjoyment. I think that is going to make a sad society, if it hasn’t already.

I’m not sure how to encourage Sarah to become a passionate reader. I know she loves learning right now, and I only hope I can continue to encourage that love. I glimpsed one possible answer, though. The other day I asked one of Sarah’s 10-year-old friends to read the book I wanted to enter in a contest and give me some feedback.  Sarah is still too young for this book, I think. She read it in an afternoon, and loved it. Sarah saw her reading it and asked “Can your write some stories for me to read, Mommy?”

Looks like I have some writing to do.

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