The Reading Solution, and thoughts on education

If you’ve read my blog posts from the past few weeks, you know that
I’m entirely in favor of convincing impressionable young children that
reading is fun and worthwhile. Similarly-minded people may want to check out The Reading Solution: Make Your Child a Reader for Life, an excellently-written book by Paul Kropp that shares strategies on how to help kids fall in love with reading – from infancy to adulthood.

The main points are: read with your child every day, reach into your
pocket to buy books, and rule the media (TV time, etc). Kropp shows
the importance of reading with kids every day, even when they seem old
enough to read on their own. Check out Kropp’s must-have lists by age for
ideas, and add your own favorites.

I don’t know how feasible it is to ask people to read together every
day, but I think it’s a great idea even for grown-ups. My mom told me
stories of how she—not a nanny—would read to me over and over and
over again, and I still think my automatic warm and fuzzies come from
that time (yes, even when I’m reading gnarly research papers!). When I
moved on to reading – and not just the Dr. Seuss books I also loved as
a kid, but the communication and business books she also had around
the house – I remember occasionally talking about good books with her.
I wish I had more of those times. There’s something about sharing the
experience of a book with someone, talking about what you’ve learned
from it and what you think about it… It’s a way of fully
experiencing the book and bringing it into yourself. Someday I would
like that to be part of my daily ritual – to quietly read for fifteen
or twenty minutes, and then share what I’ve learned from that and from
my day with whoever’s around (or my blog, although I don’t quite get
the fun immediate social interaction that way).

Kropp says that it’s important to continue that ritual of daily
reading even when kids can read on their own. Reading with other
people makes reading fun, because it’s so much more than reading. It’s
asking questions about words or stories or life. Let kids interrupt
you and go off on tangents. Point out connections. Reading together
also shows kids that you value reading. And let them see you reading,
too! I remember my mom reading all these books and talking about them…

I liked the chapter on how to deal with excellent, average and
ordinary schools. Kropp has good advice for dropping by a school,
evaluating the environment, and suggesting best practices, such as
daily quiet uninterrupted reading time. I remember how my mom was
involved with the Parent-Teacher Association in our grade school,
pushing for gifted education programs and making sure that we were
challenged.

Another thing that struck me about the book was Kropp’s advice to
have children do their homework at the kitchen table or some other
central place in the house. This shows them the value that schoolwork
has to the entire family. One of the comments that J made about her
homework made me think a bit; she once shrugged and said, “Well, my
teacher doesn’t check it anyway.” At some point I want to explain to
her why teachers give homework (so that you test your knowledge and
maybe come up with questions for grown-ups or for the next class) and
how she can make the most of it.

If you’re wondering why some of my recreational reading and reflection
has been about reading lately, it’s not just because of J. I used to
read my mom’s gifted education books when I was a kid. =) I can’t help
it even now. Part of me steps back from conversations and thinks of
phonemics or problem solving or science and what else I can fit into
those teachable moments that happen. Put me in front of someone who
wants to learn, no matter what age they are, and I’m going to rack my
brain for a way to help them learn.

There’s an updated version of Kropp’s book, if you’re curious.

While you’re reading about reading, check out my mom’s blog posts.

(Isn’t it *so* awesome that I can refer you to my mom’s reflections?)

Random Emacs symbol: search-forward-regexp – Command: Search forward from point for regular expression REGEXP.