For those of you who know me, you know I love to read. I do not really remember reading a whole lot as a child, but in 1986, Tom Clancy’s book, The Hunt for the Red October, was given to me by a friend of our family. That’s when, for some reason, I remember liking and wanting to read. I was a freshman in high school, and my parents would make me turn out the lights to go to sleep. The book fascinated me. From that point on, I’ve been an avid reader.

Sometimes, people gravitate toward “things” at different times in their life. I read in school because I had to. As a child, I can remember enjoying being read to, but I would not read “on my own.” Fast forward to now…

As an educator, I know the value of reading. I know how it helps people think, learn, be open to new ideas, etc. I know kindergarten and elementary schools promote reading to the highest levels. High schools, the same. However, what I do see, as a personal observation, is most students at the high school level do not read as much. Now, don’t get me wrong, they can read social media and everything else on that platform, but to just read to be reading, not so much. Trust me, I have asked my classes, and the majority say no. A few students even said that reading was so much “forced” on them in the early years of school that they just don’t enjoy reading anymore.

Diverse Elementary Children

Wow… and I thought reading was going out of style or something? Stanford University conducted a study on “This is your brain on Jane Austen” that actually shows how reading can stimulate the brain. If nothing else, reading can help you increase your knowledge in areas of interest. But… has school taken the fun out of reading? Are students reading for the purpose of testing, or are they reading because they want to; for the fun of it?

I guess what I’m thinking, is back to that same question that I keep asking, “What is school for?” I still believe, and it will be hard to change my mind, that school should equip a person to be a better functioning individual in society. I understand that schools must have standards, high standards, and I’m good with that. Why would we want low standards? Yes, those literary classics that must be read, and I even enjoyed a few of them. However, at what point does reading become more of a chore for students instead of desire in them to read?

I realize there is a fine line here. Every person needs to know how to read. Reading does open the world to our minds. Mark Twain is credited for saying, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read,” and Thomas Jefferson said, “I cannot live without books.” Either way, we all function better when we read…

Here are a few stats from Literacy Project…¹
Forty-five million Americans are functionally illiterate and can’t read above a fifth-grade level.
Fifty percent of adults can’t read a book written at an eighth-grade level.
Three out of four adults on welfare can’t read.
One in four children in America grow up without learning how to read.

These stats show the importance of learning how to read, and schooling is a vital part of that. At the same time, we must remember that when we force an issue, people can become hesitant. As we continue to educate, let’s still encourage reading. You never know when someone will gravitate toward liking it for the first time or again.

Go be a great educator and leader today… Our future needs it…

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others…

©2021 J Clay Norton

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