Whatever we read from intense curiosity gives us the model of how we should always read. Plodding along page after page with an equal attention to each word results in attention to mere words.
— Ernest Dimnet
Reading is my world!
I love to read — always have and, hopefully, always will. Just now it occurred to me that my biggest fear is losing my eyesight, preventing me from reading.
Both of my grandparents on my mother’s side have macular degeneration; my grandmother on my father’s side had cataracts — what are my chances?
Sure, I could invest in audio books — but for me that’s not the same as being able to devour the words myself, flick back to reread parts … or, naughty I know, flick forward to see the ending because I just have to know now. There’s also the additional problem that I am not a good listener. I tend to lose concentration after the first five minutes.
There are a few people I know who don’t enjoy reading. That was in italics for a reason — I don’t get it. They find it boring to sit down and read! I feel deeply sorry for these people — and I find myself wondering what happened to make them feel this way.
I do have a theory though.
One word — school.
I feel I may have been very lucky at school. I do not recall even one of my primary school teachers not reading to my class — just for the sheer enjoyment. I remember my Year 4 teacher in particular. Mrs Connelly read us the entire Ramona series by Beverly Cleary. Every day, she read to us. We hung on to every word. If she was away, we had withdrawal. It made us look forward to Mondays. But the best thing was — we read for pure enjoyment!
Let me rephrase that: we did not do any work on the books. No story maps, no character analysis, no comprehension questions — we just read it and loved it.
Of course, there would be multiple other reasons why people end up not choosing to engage in reading as a leisure activity — but I think the words: “We’ve just read this book, now here’s a sheet to do on it,” may not help. Just so you know, this starts in the first year of school … and gets worse every year.
Here’s an idea: let’s only choose boring books for novel study. They’re already boring, so we won’t be ruining an otherwise good story with the addition of multiple worksheets and endless analysis. Leave the really good books for … just reading!
And another idea: let’s add ‘reading for enjoyment with absolutely no work attached’ to the curriculum.
And yet another: yes, it’s good practice to encourage (read as: force) children to ‘read widely’ — but if we are making them read genre or topics they have no curiosity about then who are we really doing this for? If we are giving them ‘free choice’ then it should be. Who cares if they choose comic books every single time — at least they’re reading.
There’s a place in our lives for ‘reading because we have to, in order to gain information’ — I’m not saying there isn’t. What I am saying, however, is the place for ‘reading because we want to’ is getting smaller, and it’s time to bring it all back into perspective.