I truly value the time that I have when I can read a good book, or catch up on some professional reading, whether it be from journals or other sources. I am particularly a sucker for mystery novels, especially those written by James Lee Burke, Walter Mosley, Andrew Vachss, Robert B. Parker, and yes, Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich! I also cannot wait for the new works from John Grisham, James Patterson, and David Baldacci. I remember when I was teaching at Galva-Holstein a number of years back that I set a goal of reading 50 books in a year. I felt that I wasn’t taking advantage of all the worlds that I could go to through a book and simply was not taking the time to enjoy reading. I far surpassed that goal that year and set one even higher the next. Today, I do not set goals any more as I make time to read for my personal enjoyment and to advance my knowledge. I only wish that I could do that more!
When I was at Creston, we set aside time every day and “required” students to read. I struggled with the required part of all of that, but the philosophy was that if students had the time to read something they wanted to read, then they would develop a desire to do so on their own time as well. In some cases that held true and I do believe that programs like “Silent Sustained Reading” and “Drop Everything and Read” have value. I do know that some kids completed the first book they had ever read cover to cover. It was a struggle to get others to turn a page, so you can’t make everyone enjoy reading. It does give me concern that people do not take the time to read and I fear the consequences of this because our nation is dependent on a literate society. It is surprising to learn how many adults do not read on a regular basis!
In our busy lives it seems to me that we need to set aside the time to read. It is not uncommon for my family to sit in front of the television set watching American Idol or a movie, yet we could just as easily be together reading. It is actually kind of funny because when I jotted down a few notes for this article, it was because I noticed one evening over winter break that the four of us were sitting in our front room, each of us with a book open and all of us fully engaged in the story in front of us. I am so happy that both my kids have a book in their bags each day, one of them reading on the bus to and from school and the other in the evenings before bedtime. It also causes me to remember back to those nights when they were small, sitting in my lap or their mothers, turning the pages of their favorite book as the story was read to them. I am so happy we set that time aside for them because I have to believe that contributed to their love of reading today.
I don’t have to “schedule” reading time anymore for myself because I do it when I have a chance. And, I am lucky in that my kids read without coercion. For those of you out there who do not take the time, I strongly encourage you to start like I did about twenty years ago by setting goals and blocking out time. Get that library card and use it! I also believe that the best gift you can give to your child is to require that they do the same. You can’t “make” them enjoy it. But, you can ensure that they at least open the book and then turn the pages. Without that, they probably never will!