Two weeks ago, I covered the kick-off of the vacation reading program at the Thomson library. Attending the event brought back happy memories of collecting tall stacks of books, and racing my brother to see who could finish the summer reading program first.
I also remember when I first learned to read. I proudly sat in my child-sized rocker and read Dick and Jane aloud to my parents. Even then, the story seemed overly-simple; but, I was intrigued with this idea of sounding out letters together and opening a whole, new world.
A quote from the American Federation of Teachers states, "No other skill taught in school and learned by school children is more important than reading. It is the gateway to all other knowledge..."
Reading teaches the important skill of thinking for one's self. It may sound enticing today that many great works of literature are available in video form, and they are a heck of a lot easier to watch in two hours than reading through a 1,000-page book. But reading is an exercise for the brain. And all exercise is good for you, right?
I remember a few years ago, my son read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and thoroughly enjoyed it. Several months later, the movie came out, and he was right there for the first-released showing at midnight. Later, he commented, "Wow, none of those characters looked like I thought they did when I read the book." He has read the book and its sequels several times since, and I'm sure each time, he pictured the characters in his mind the way Hollywood portrayed them. I was saddened, because his imagination no longer had to work. In essence, someone else had told him how to think.
I believe the ability to read is a basis of success. However, I believe a love of reading is equally as important. Learning to read is hard, and takes practice. And loving to read takes training.
As I cover educational issues for this paper, I see so many programs seeking to teach children to read. It is difficult for our teachers, schools and libraries to compete with today's exciting world of electronic media. What child wants to sit with a book, when they can single-handedly fight inner-galactic wars by simply hitting a button on their Nintendo?
To pressure a child to read will not create a love of reading. It is easy, however, to influence a child to love to read. From the time they are infants, enjoy a daily story time. I recommend starting before they are able to hold a game controller. I know from experience, it works.