(Cross posted from my blog, here).
If I had to pick the one thing that I wish school managed to do for everyone, it would be instill a love of reading. I remember knowing I had to learn how to read, I remember reading in class, I remember people saying reading was important, but I don’t remember people at school ever saying that reading was fun.
For some reason, for me, it was. I think that it’s because my parents read to me every single day before bed (i still feel a bit odd if I don’t read before bed). They read a huge set of books, most far above my reading level- The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Redwall, Narnia, His Dark Materials, and probably a million I’m forgetting. One of the few times I remember being extremely upset was a time I was watching my dad read my brother Dinotopia, while waiting for my mom to come read to me. She thought I was entertained listening to my brother’s book, and decided it was bed time, and I didn’t get to read part of mine. I cried for at least an hour, and wasn’t placated until she read a chapter. Reading was a huge part of my life, but because it was instilled while I was at home.
So as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized more and more that the love of reading was the most important thing I learned. Love of reading was important because it means that I read continuously. Here are all the things my love of reading has helped me with, and why I think it’s the most important (school-related) thing for a child to learn. Reasons 1-3 all relate specifically to language, but 4-5 are more broad.
1. Spelling – I was never great with spelling growing up. i still can’t spell out loud. But when I’m writing, I can tell immediately if a word is correct or not. It looks right or wrong because I’ve seen it written so many times.
2. Grammar – People’s brains are great at pattern matching. Like with spelling, I’ve seen enough written sentences to know when mine flow.
3. Vocabulary – When you read, you aren’t just memorizing vocab words like you would be with SAT prep cards. You see words in context, repeatedly, and now that we have great ebook readers, you can even define words without breaking your flow.
4. Communicating Ideas – The more things you read, the more times you’ll see ideas that are communicated well, or horribly. Being able to sense what helps get the point across helps you communicate your ideas better.
5. Learning – Reading is a great way to learn about a discipline. Not everyone is the type of person who learns best through reading, but I believe almost everyone can learn through reading, and the more they read, the easier it will get. Loving to read gives you a tool to start a foundation in a field – you can read a book (relatively low investment) before deciding to take a full class, reach out to an expert, or take another drastic step. Reading is the gateway.
I wouldn’t be anything like I am today without reading. I wish we’d instill a love of reading in kids, instead of an obligation to read. It’s probably the best advantage we can give them.