Monday, September 9, 2013

reading as a way of life

This week I saw a statistic that 80% of Americans did not buy or read a book in the past year. I am shocked.

In our house, reading is synonymous with breathing. The way my boys operate: you get up in the morning, and saunter over to the bookshelf, pull something out, and start reading. We have books strewn everywhere: on the floor, on the couch, on the table, piled up in stacks, spilling out from cubbies. We have a box of magazines. We have a dedicated shelf for library books which kept getting mixed up with our books. We bring a giant bag to the library every time and then the boys teeter under its weight as we walk to the car. They have their pick of books, and I add some that I think they would find interesting or important.

I used to worry about what they read, especially when the first chapter book that 7 yo picked was "Captain Underpants". Now I find that overall they consume a varied and balanced literary diet: fiction and nonfiction, chapter and picture books, above and below their grade level.

About a year ago I read a recommendation from a librarian never to deny a picture book to a child on the grounds that it is too young. There is more to a picture book than words;
there are illustrations, design, story, conflict. I like this suggestion, and I often see 9 yo browse through his sister's books. 7 yo will often join as I am reading a book to her. Nowadays the boys really prefer to read on their own, and I miss reading to them.

The nature of unschooling is the lack of preconceived notions. The other day in the library 3 yo kept picking up chapter paperbacks based on their covers, bringing them over to me to read, and deciding based on the first couple pages whether she wanted them or not. She was not daunted by the length of the books or their lack of pictures. Later, when we got home, 7 yo read one of those girly paperbacks that she picked out. He was not embarrassed about reading a girl book.

If literacy is so important, and reading is the primary way to acquire new information, why aren't more Americans reading? Do they feel that reading is something you do for school only, as an assignment, and never for pleasure?

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