Raising your child in an era when communication is limited to 140 characters, a picture or a text message full of emojis, your children may wonder what the benefit is to learning − and enjoy − reading might be. Your child may learn about John Corcoran, the author of “The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read” − a man who graduated high school and college and went on to become a popular high school teacher – all while not being able to read.
Reading is not a mark of intelligence and not being able to read is not a mark of a lack of intelligence.
So if we accept this premise – what’s the point in learning to read? Or rather – enjoy reading?
Let’s start with the task of learning to read. There are multiple reason why learning is critical to be successful in today’s society. These include – but are not limited to:
It is fundamental to being able to function – from medication instructions, to filling out applications.
Reading helps your mind develop and grow as well as a primary way of learning and understanding new ideas.
Reading triggers your imagination and your creativity.
Being able to write your ideas helps to change the world.
There is power in the written word.
Most of these factors help you to get a better job, engage in lively conversation, attract people or become a better leader. However, while these “tasks” often result in a more enjoyable life- what about discovering how reading is enjoyable itself? Is it necessary – or advantageous – to enjoying reading? Does it make you a better person?
As a person who loves the written word – reading and sharing – I would have to say that enjoying reading has opened up new opportunities and helped me to discover new worlds outside of the four walls in which I live.
Reading has helped me to explore new countries without leaving home, experience things I’ll never have the opportunity to in real life – like being a detective, scaling a cliff, parachuting (because I would have a heart attack jumping out of a perfectly good airplane!) or being a spy.
In other words, I take pleasure in reading. This means something I find fun and pleasurable brings me new experiences, greater knowledge, insight and empathy and helps me to converse with people from many countries.
When I can accomplish THAT doing something I enjoy without paying for an education at school I count it as a big win.
Reading is an individual act from which you derive individual pleasure but can share with others. It’s a unique experience you can’t truly describe, but rather have to do it yourself to fully grasp. For me, it’s a bit like watching an incredible movie, except with greater detail than script writers are able to include in the movie because of time limitations.
This is not to mention the joy in re-reading a particularly well-written book and finding details and nuances you didn’t understanding during your first read. Suddenly you’re transported to another time and place, learning new details and understanding more about life in a couple of hours than you could have by experience in just hours.
YES, it is important to have your own life experiences and enjoy your own vistas, but it is critical to your enjoyment of this thing we call life that we experience more than you might in your own small town, street or home. It is completely believable you can live your whole life without picking up a book and never “miss” the experience.
On the other hand, if you are an avid reader, you can’t imagine, in your wildest dreams, going through a week or a month without dipping your toes into far away waters, or sinking into someone’s story that isn’t your own.
Suddenly you can imagine new solutions to old problems, understand how to deal with difficult people or learn new strategies to grow your business – and this is all from FICTION. Imagine what you might be able to learn from books that actually focus on those topics!
This, and more, is possible when you enjoy picking up a book, feeling the pages between your fingers and flipping pages – watching your progress through the book by measure the thickness of the book.
How do you instill this love of reading into your child?
There are several strategies you may consider, beginning when they are too young to read for themselves – all the way through high school when you think you’ve waited too long.
Babies are enthralled by others reading them stories and they take comfort in the repetition of hearing the same ones time and again. My youngest son had a favorite – Is You Momma a Llama? I knew this book by heart from start to finish by the time he was three. I could give him the book while we were driving and, in his car seat, holding the book in his tiny hands, I would “read” it to him while he flipped the pages. It’s a memory I’ll treasure, always.
Read for yourself! Your children do what they see you doing. It’s a conundrum you can’t get away from. If they watch you drink alcohol, it’s more likely they will too. If you enjoy drugs, it’s more likely they will too. If you use medication to kill the pain, it’s more likely they will tool. If you read, it’s more likely they will too. If you enjoy cooking, it’s more likely they will too.
Surround your child with books – give them as gifts, on the Kindle app or a book club that delivers a book of their choice every month. The trick here to be sure the books you give are the ones THEY want to read. It does no good if you have an ulterior motive and give them The Great Gatsby or Pride and Prejudice when they enjoy fixing engines, reading comic books and watching cop shows.
Keep your eye on their interests and tailor your book choices to their likes and dislikes. There’s a much better chance they will pick up the book and read it – the first step to finding enjoyment in the activity.
Visit the library with your child and introduce them to the incredible number of books that exist for them to read. It’s an experience they will remember for years to come.
Do NOT push! Do you remember what it was like when your parents pushed you into something you couldn’t stand? You backed off, dug in your heels and worked even harder to avoid it. Your child is not different.
Read to your child – no matter the age. I remember when my oldest were young teens. We would spend 30 minutes each night reading a Hardy Boys mystery out loud, sitting on the couch with one on either side, and my youngest son sitting on the floor in front of us. I was doing the reading, and they remember these nights with fondness. It brought us closer together and instilled in two of them a love for learning and reading.
If you child is just not interested – try introducing smart comics. Calvin and Hobbes or the Tin Tin series are comics with adult interests and sophisticated vocabulary and concepts. Sometimes piquing their interest is all that’s needed to keep the ball rolling.
Limit technology – let’s face it, there is a certain allure to the mobile device, the bright screen and the immediate feedback of technology. I have succumbed to Tetris, my favorite game, and make sure I play it once a day. But I limit it to once a day. It is difficult to monitor my daughter’s use of technology, but making the difficult choices has paid great dividends.
Take a few moments and begin enjoying reading for yourself. With some encouragement, you may find your child right behind you!