Reading and the schools: who can right this ship?

IMG_3555Any survey of current discussion topics – via Internet, radio, television, magazine and newspaper – is going to finger “Reading in America” as a hot, pervasive, and controversial subject for conversation.

Everyone has an opinion when it comes to reading, and especially reading deficits. Everyone has a favorite direction when it comes to wagging the finger of blame. Everyone seems to want to make a political point and use it as an excuse to give legislators one more toe-hold in something they are unqualified, ill-equipped, and improperly motivated to control.

Meanwhile – while arguments continue, new rules contradict old rules, and kids fall further behind – two things are clear 1) Fewer children can be observed curled up in a quiet spot with a book in their hands, and 2) Reading competency, reading comprehension, and its cousin, effective writing, are now more important than ever in both in the workplace and the culture.

IMG_3551HOME: For a moment, let’s ignore the machinations of state and federal government, and also give the schools a “pass” when it comes to setting the course for language proficiency. Instead, consider the small package of skin and bones that’s delivered – already well set in its recreational habits and learning proclivities – to Kindergarten teachers every September (some 4-million per annum, according to the US Census).

Parents don’t get to make a choice when it comes to teaching their children: they are teaching their children. The question is not “if” they are teaching, but “what” they are teaching. From the moment children are born, they are learning, learning, learning.

So the best question we can ask regarding reading is this, “What are parents doing to get the ball rolling?” Kids typically fit into the family ethos, and “modeling” is one of the strongest teaching strategies available. Reading “to” a child is important, and reading “with” a child is huge, but reading “alongside” your child (you both have books) turns out to be the most effective of all.

Whatever method, or set of methods, is employed, kids who arrive at Kindergarten from a culture where reading is valued, encouraged, and modeled, will likely be well equipped to handle whatever the latest professional teaching fad happens to be.

Teach your children well...
Teach your children well…

REALITY: So let’s put school into perspective: Even in the best case scenario (100% attendance, 7-hours a day for 180 days), the average child is only in the classroom 14.4% of any given year. Or, think of it this way: If your child has nine weeks off this summer, then that adds up to more hours than an entire year of school!

Fact is, one focused summer of family reading fun could change the course of your child’s entire education. Consider reading as a family value. Consider getting a good education as a family value.

Parents are the make or break of reading. So enough with our fussing at the schools because we can. Let the teachers teach! How about encouraging the family instead?

To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little. (Isaiah 28:9-10)

IMG_3554One child at a time, one book at a time, one page at a time, one word at a time. Precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little….





  1. Right on, Derek. And to make it even better, there is these places in most communities where you and your child can find just about every book you could want to read and they let you have it (for a while) for FREE! So reading doesn’t have to break the bank. Most of these same places have story time for all ages as well. For FREE! Wake County libraries even have a great story telling festival every September. For FREE! Just makes me happy to think about it.


  2. I love reading to my boys. I love it even more when they bring me a book and ask me to read to them. In that moment, time stops and all else fades back. Occasionally, they will sneak up on me with a book and leap out, pages ruffling. I call it “being ambooked.”


  3. I loved reading to you too, Adam. To Billy, as well. It was such a sweet time – just shut everything & everyone else out, & sneak off into a field to help Brown Puppy find a falling star. Or laugh at a funny lizard run into a tree while showing off. Creating memories to last a lifetime….stories that you can share with you Ian little ones 🙂


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