According to the educational website, Edutopia,
Parent involvement is the number one predictor of early literacy success and future academic achievement.”
But, according to the Pew Research Center,
About a quarter of American adults (26%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic, or audio form.”
We all intuitively know that reading – to our kids, in front of our kids – benefits our kids. But we also all experientially know that reading requires time and energy – two commodities we as parents too easily believe we possess in too small amounts.
Perhaps we do better reading books in the summer when the schedule seems lighter and the days longer. And yet, if we aren’t reading consistently ourselves (and especially during the school year), how will we convince our kids of this supposedly important habit, both in their studies now as well as later for the long-term?
This weekend, I began reading Jackson J. Spielvogel’s Western Civilization, the excellent history textbook our secondary students use all through their 7th-12th grade years. My daughters (all of whom had weekend reading assignments in Spielvogel) noticed my seemingly strange selection as they walked by me lying on the couch, and wondered out loud why I was reading their textbook on a Saturday night.
Before I could answer, they each mentioned how much they themselves liked Spielvogel’s text and how it helped them anchor in the timeline of history the many original source novels and essays we read. This, of course, is exactly how our teachers intend the book to be used, but it was nice hearing my kids’ explanation of our pedagogy (the method and practice of teaching) and how it helped them learn.
(Candidly, it was also nice to feel like I was doing something – i.e. reading the same book they were – that communicated interest in their lives and what they are learning. And, I learned and re-learned quite a bit about the ancient world of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and classical Greece.)
At all levels of our curriculum, our students read plenty of great books. As parents, why not read some with them? In lower elementary, learn some phonograms with your little ones; in the upper elementary, jump in on a chapter book every now and then, or read along in Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World history series.
If you have a student in the secondary, ask him for the booklist this year (we’ve already handed out all his books) and get started on a novel or essay now that he’ll read later in the year. Last year, I intentionally chose to read Moby Dick with my senior, but as I knew it would take me longer to read than her, I gave myself a couple months of extra lead time and finished just before she did. On the several occasions at the dinner table she shared what had been discussed in class and her thoughts concerning it, I could engage genuinely, which meant a lot to me and, I think, to her.
Forsake the “all or nothing” mentality that paralyzes so many of us (dads especially) and pick a book or two to read with your student this semester. Our kids – regardless of age or grade – will take note of our efforts and benefit as we model (even sporadically and imperfectly) this important tool and discipline of learning.