Stop and think about all of our different purposes for reading. How many times each day do you read something? In all honestly, it would probably be hard to count something like this because those of us that can read do so automatically. Sometimes I think we take for granted how much we rely on our reading skills, just because we do it so often and it’s so much a part of our day, who we are, and what we do. Sometimes we even forget why we do it, because it is so ‘normal’. (Thank you to all of my teachers who helped me be a successful and fluent reader!)
Today I was talking with some first graders and asked them why they think reading is important. Most of the answers went something like this: to get good grades, to read chapter books, to learn stuff…
If we actually think about how we use reading in real life though, how much do the first two answers matter? Do our grades in elementary (or middle, or high school) really have a direct impact on our daily reading lives? Not really. Our grades as a whole might effect our future in terms of what job we hold, or if we go to college, but our ‘grades’ themselves really don’t matter much. Does it matter if we could read chapter books in first grade or weren’t able to read them until second grade? Not really. When I hear children telling me that reading is important for these reasons, I am frustrated. It’s not because I think we should do away with grades, or that we shouldn’t teach children to set goals for themselves; these are both good and necessary. It’s just that somehow I think they are missing the real message, the real purpose and importance of reading. Yes, we do read so that we can learn and get good grades, and we practice reading often so that we can learn to read more difficult material. But, is that really ‘why’ we read? Is that why reading is important?
If you are a parent, think about how you show your children that you are a reader. Are you setting an example by reading often? Do you talk about the things YOU read with your children? Are you purposeful in pointing out times when you are reading in your everyday life? Do you see and praise the value in reading itself, or is it the grades, ‘levels’, or types of books they read that you praise your child for?
Being upfront and clear with our children about why we read helps take some of the guesswork out of an already complicated process. Help your children to see reading as something of value by showing them how reading truly impacts our everyday lives.