Will Making Kids Read Instill a Love of Reading?

origin_4351943418For years elementary teachers have been trying to sell the idea that if we assign nightly reading to students that it will make them learn to love reading. We tell our struggling readers, and their parents, if you read every night you’ll start to love reading.

Wait . . . really?

So if there’s a skill I don’t like and am not good at, practicing it will make me love it? I don’t buy it. Will practicing long division make me love long division? Will practicing doing the dishes make me love doing the dishes? Will practicing scrubbing bathrooms make me love scrubbing bathrooms? No, no, and no.

Will practicing a skill that I am not good at make me better at it? Of course it will. But we need to stop trying to sell the idea that practicing a skill will make kids love it. Given how much long division we make fourth graders do, you’d figure we’d see kids doing long division for fun in their free time – but we don’t. Because practicing a skill won’t make you love that skill.

Will practicing a difficult skill help you improve. Yes, of course. Will practicing a difficult skill make you love that skill? No, of course not. We need to stop telling people it will.

photo credit: Ðenise via photopin cc

3 thoughts on “Will Making Kids Read Instill a Love of Reading?

  1. Consider this: There seems to be significant evidence from research by neuroscientists, evolutionary biologists, and psychologists that human beings have an innate attraction to telling and listening to stories. [ I know of no similar research arguing the same is true of long division or scrubbing floors — but I certainly could have missed it.] Couldn’t it be possible that if a person learns (from practice, in this case) how to read with enough adeptness to gain access to narratives that touch that person’s imagination, emotions, and innate love of story, then that person might come to love reading because it gives that access?

  2. I think that engaging with oral text (for lack of a better phrase) and written text are two different things. I can see the continued engagement with telling and listening to stories leading to a desire for those stories, but that’s different from the physical act of decoding written text. Given what we as educators know about differentiation and how all kids are different the idea of pushing a one-size-fits-all statement like “if you read every night you’ll learn to love it” makes me nervous. Especially when we push it on our struggling population that is more likely to have physical/neurological difficulties decoding text. It’s certainly important that we practice, but trying to sell love of reading as a universal result makes me uneasy. Saying “if you engage with stories (written or oral) you’ll learn to love stories (written or oral)” sits much better with me.

  3. So given that practicing reading will help you become a better reader, perhaps it will not in and of itself make you a lover of reading, but with the right guidance from a lover of books, a better reader will have better access to the stories and information that excite you. So much of becoming a better reader or loving reading is about the right book – a good fit in level of difficulty and complexity, as well as a good fit in style and content.

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