Importance of Reading for our Children
Written by Eileen Wacker ©
I often think about the importance of reading for children. I believe to my core that education and exposure to different things make a difference in our world. What kids read influences their view of the world and their place in it. Books have an impact on the person they ultimately become. An education is the greatest gift we give to our children and reading is critical to almost every facet of learning. But the whole ‘learning to read’ and ‘loving to read’ journey is inconvenient at best.
Reading causes a lot of friction between moms. At a recent back to school night, all the moms’ eyes are drawn to the reading stars chart. Whatever the teacher is saying is white noise. And I always notice where my child is first, but then like a computer, I calculate where all the other small humans fall in. It’s not all my fault. We have been told that all kids learn to read at their own pace and we should not worry. But then there are ladders and star charts and other indicators of a child’s success. This keeps moms up at night.
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At a Girls Night Out, one of my friends was going on and on about how much her child loves to read. She’s at a point where her son is hiding all his reading. It’s like a reading marathon every night at their house. I looked around at all the other moms’ faces. I wondered if I should tell her, “You’re are most definitely a buzz kill. Enough with the voracious reading chronicles! We don’t come to these dinners to feel like we are not doing enough and need to get home to find a tutor. We come to feel normal and have authentic conversations about our challenges and small successes. Save your Facebook fabulous for your thousand social media friends. ”
Then there is the friction at home. My four kids are decent readers now but it’s a huge battle. The reading journals were tough. My son said, “Reading is stressful when you’re not the reader type.” Yet he has an insatiable appetite for non-fiction books about athletes. I had to learn to back off and let him pick his books, not push the suggested reading list every summer.
For me one of the most critical things we can do as parents is leave pleasure reading as free form. Our kids are overscheduled and march through their routines like little robots. We have to take reading back to the enjoyable adventure it is meant to be and not have some structured matrix of how to have assured reading success. If we do this then the reading nook becomes the place where fun goes to die. Kids love to be the heroes in their own stories and read about reluctant or non-traditional heroes in other stories.
I also love the messages of children’s and YA books. Most children’s and YA books have children/tweens/teens facing a challenge and then overcoming that obstacle. We need more of that spirit in our children. Trying things that have no guaranteed outcome. And, if there is a hovering adult in the story, he/she is usually the bad guy. The children/tweens/teens solve their own problems, not the helicopter parent.
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Sometimes I’m surprised and rewarded as I’m driving. Between my four kids activities and social commitments, I’m in the car about five hours on Saturdays. Today my 12 year-old daughter and her friend had a party at the beach. I’m fine to be invisible as this is when I get to hear them talk about stuff they care about. Her friend said, “My favorite thing is to know the back story. Like, I want to know why the missing foot is important to the story.”
These moments remind me that my goal is to fret less about reading standards, charts and measures. And my challenge is to come up with ways to enable my children to read all the books that they want, and continue to be the heroes in their own adventures.