Thursday, July 17, 2008

To read or not to read, that is the question...

This morning I received a transcript of an audio program extolling the benefits of family reading. I love what they had to say, because I believe it to be so true. We have been doing this right before bed since our first child was born. Reading her a bedtime story just shifted into "family read-aloud" when she got old enough to handle following "chapter books" by making it from one night to the next. We started reading a chapter a night when she was two years old, but I'm sure we could have started even sooner. Her younger brother was a baby at the time, and he (and his subsequent siblings) sat in on it every night even of their infant lives.

(This is the son who went on to read Tolkien's entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, independently and with full comprehension, when he was five years old - but that is another story for another time.)

The speaker is author Richard Grant:
You know, Mike, what we actually do is what is actually important to us. The biggest thing to free up time for reading would be for parents to set reading as a high priority, and then do it. We spend time on Little League, ballet lessons, all kinds of good things, but few of those activities are going to impact our kids as profitably as reading. How many of our kids are really going to be pro ball players or ballerinas? Not many. But they all need to be good readers. So parents can set reading higher on their list of things to do.
Another thing they can do is turn off that TV. It consumes us. Turn it off! There are a whole lot more good books than there are good TV shows.
Also, a busy homeschool mom can add recreational reading to her daily routine. Every day she can schedule a time when everyone, including herself, gets a specific number of minutes to read quietly. I call this USSR: uninterrupted silent sustained reading. No phone calls, no chores, no answering the door. Just reading. Reading like this can be an oasis in an otherwise hectic homeschool day.

What a great idea about the USSR! Our homeschool day requires this kind of silent reading of each of our children, but how fun to work it in so that occasionally you're doing it simultaneously. I'm sure it is encouraging to the younger ones to see all the older ones in the family (including their parents) reading at the same time they are.

In an era when one in four Americans has not read a single book during the past year, we can make a significant difference in whether our children fritter away their lives in front of a moving screen, or become the lifelong learners that those who love to read are destined to be. (Here's a hint: as long as the addictive flickering screen is an option, they'll never choose the book. Or much of anything else, for that matter.)

Anyway, happy reading!

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