Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reading Substance over Style

The Yahoo Mother Board has asked us to talk about encouraging our children to read.

The first thing I thought of was a Stop Homework post entitled I Hate Reading Logs.

I love to read. I mean, I love it. I even love to write papers on what I've read. I love to disappear into a book. I read voraciously as a child. When I was growing up, I didn't have a ton of homework, but I'd get it done quickly so that I could read.

Most school nights when I was growing up, I had rehearsal. On the way to those rehearsals, I would be reading. I even got a book light so that I could read on the way home, too. My favorite author growing up was the fabulous Judy Blume.

I have nothing against reading. I have a problem with the mandated 20-30 minute reading that my daughters have habitually been assigned since kindergarten.

My girls used to love to read. And sometimes, they still do. They will pick up a book that interests them. They will look for a book on a subject that interests them. After learning a movie they love is based upon a book, they will want to read the book.

Yet these same girls have fought me hard when it comes to their assigned reading.

Not assigned reading when it comes to reading their textbooks (although, sure, that too, sometimes), but the reading that's assigned strictly for the purpose of assigning reading.

Sometimes, the teachers assign certain types of reading: mystery or non-fiction, for example. My 9-year-old will agonize over which book to read rather than just picking up a book and reading. She will set a timer to read for only the allotted time. She will obsess over how many more pages, how many chapters, rather than just enjoy the book. Yet, when she reads a book because she wants to read that book, I have to tell her to put the book down to come eat/get out of the car.

I hate what assigned reading is doing to the love of reading. It's another example of how we take a child's innate desire to learn and stomp all over it.

I remember when the girls were little, and they would pretend to read "like Mommy." They worked so hard to learn their letters to be able to enter into the world of reading. Sylvia memorized the Dr. Seuss books I would read to her so that she could "read" it herself when she was little.

It hurts me when I hear them complain about having to read. It hurts me when I ask them about the book, and their response is, "I read 20 pages" or "I only have to read 2 more chapters." But how is the book?

I am encouraged by smaller victories. I always buy the girls new books at their school Book Fairs, and I was so glad when Sylvia loved her last book, and couldn't put it down.

I am encouraged that when the girls want to learn more about something, they use the internet as a resource.

I am encouraged when Riley comes home all excited that she won a book in a classroom contest.

I encourage them by stressing substance over style. I ask them to read me the letter or memo from school while I'm putting the dishes away or read me the directions when we're driving. I give them articles to read about their favorite celebrities. We play word games when we're waiting in line or stuck on the freeway (name everything you can think of that starts with the letter "a" and on through the alphabet). And I will say yes to (almost) any book they want to buy.

They say that my girls are at the age of "reading to learn" rather than "learning to read." But the true love of learning and reading comes from wanting to experience the world. As much as I may be frustrated by reading logs and the like, I still see the wonder and excitement in each new opportunity they have for such experiences.

Please visit the Yahoo MotherBoard for more posts on reading.


Danielle said...

There is so much to worry about as an adult raising children. You don't want to squash their desire by enforcing. It's nice to have "go to sources" (you) for me when my daughter reaches this age. Keep writing so that I can learn!

Cat said...

I loved to read as a kid... but at the same time I would read book after book of my choice, but the second it became an assignment, I lost interest. Luckily I had a great Mom who encouraged reading and everything good.

bonggamom said...

Judy Blume was also one of my favorite authors! Fortunately I was never forced to read anything, and I hope my daughter won't be either.

Jeanne @ said...

I am a lover of all things Judy Blume too!

Anonymous said...

I have had many kids tell me that they have never read a novel. Imagine that, a freshman in college who has never read a novel. It's appalling. Then, when they get to college, they are overwhelmed with not only the amount of reading, but actually having to develop the discipline to read things they may not like or are not interested in. Reading isn't always about reading what you want and when you want. You have to develop the reading skills to read something that you don't like and be able to stay focused and retain what you've read.

I like when teachers allow students the opportunity to choose what the kids get to read, but sometimes, ya just gotta suck it up and read what's assigned.

April said...

Hey Dingo,
I don't entirely disagree with you, but I think kindergarten is too young to start the mandatory reading, which is what Districts out here do, so that by the time they get to high school, they no longer care what they can learn from reading, they just see reading as a chore. Which to me, as a reader, is very disappointing.

Kristen said...

I posted a bit of a rant over reading logs ( but didn't even get into the idea of enforced reading killing a child's enjoyment of reading. I figured after my long involved unhappiness over the log itself, I'd probably gone on long enough but I do agree that required reading does, for many children, stamp on their desire to read for pleasure.