Some of you may have heard this quotation: "If you can read this, thank a teacher." And Dr. Seuss is quoted as saying "The more you read, the more things you will know. And the more that you learn, the more places you'll go."
How true that is! Reading is a great experience.
There are many memorable, inspiring, and moving events that I experience as a parent, grandparent and teacher. But one event that is priceless, is when a young child, with a sparkling glint in his or her eyes and exuding excited enthusiasm, expresses these words, "I can read, I can read!" These have been and are the moments I will cherish for a lifetime.
March 2 was "Read Across America Day. What a worthy designation! And furthermore, reading is a great adventurous activity for people of all ages not for just a day, but for a lifetime. Reading provides food for thought and stimulation for the mind. It was the noted English philosopher John Locke who said "Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; but, it is thinking that makes what we read truly ours."
Every child is an individual with a unique learning style and readiness. Pushing a child to read at a level beyond the child's level builds up anxiety, which could have long-term complications. A good teacher should creatively decipher the readiness of each learner and design appropriate learning strategies to maximize that teachable moment.
Helping a child to expand a speaking vocabulary is an important step toward a child building a reading vocabulary. Teaching a child about the joys of reading can be one of the most important things one can do for a child. Too many times, children look at reading as simply something they need to do in order to do well in school. A child with this attitude risks missing out on the many advantages of reading. When a child enjoys reading, they tend to read books on their own, even if they are not assigned. As a result, their reading skills naturally improve.
Reading for the sheer fun of it also has many other advantages. Reading is such an important part of a person's everyday life, it just stands to reason that good reading skills will make almost every part of a person's life just a little easier, exciting, and far more productive. One of the best ways to instill a love of reading is to enjoy reading as a family. It was Carolyn Coats who said "Children have more need of models than they do of critics."
Learning a love of reading should start early. Even when a child is still an infant, you can soothe or entertain them by reading a book to them. Choose books that have an abundance of colorful pictures, so that your child's interest will be held. As they get older, let them have some choice as to the book that will be read. If your child has a few favorite books, you can encourage more by using the book's theme to be displayed in their room. Placing pictures of their favorite characters in their bedroom can be a simple and yet inexpensive way to continue to motivate their interest in the books of their choice. Adding other characters and sights will expand their interest in additional reading material and subjects.
After your children are reading on their own, it is still important to encourage their joy of reading. Setting aside an hour on a regular basis so that everyone enjoys good reading is an excellent way to set a good example. When your children see how important reading is to you, they will naturally place more importance on reading in their own lives.
You could create a family library, stocking it with books and newspapers that the whole family can enjoy. Displaying a variety of subject matter materials can expand their interest and create a desire to read further on the subjects displayed. Ah, yes, reading is an exciting adventure for all ages, on all subjects, for all seasons. And that is how I see it from this perspective.
Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Fredonia and distinguished professor at Capella University in Minneapolis, MN. All of the past columns can be viewed on Send comments to: Rheich@aol.com