Not long ago a friend of mine posted something on Facebook that made me very sad. It had to do with how to read.
She posted something like, “Looking for suggestions on chapter books for my son. The teacher told him that the graphic novels that he loves to read aren’t appropriate for his level.”
And, my heart sank a little.
What really happened that day was not a teacher moving a child along in their reading skills (because they have to follow certain rules and meet certain standards). What really happened that day was society told a child that what he loved to read wasn’t good enough.
And, this can be devastating for a kid, especially when they’re learning how to read or are generally uninterested in reading.
I know this because I had a non-reader.
Early on, my daughter had no interest in reading, despite being read to every single day. Even after learning how to read, she just wasn’t interested in sitting down and reading books on her own.
(I have no idea how that happened, but that’s for a different post.)
This all changed when we moved to a different area and got a library card for the new library. It is a smaller, less intimidating library and has a fantastic children’s area.
And then, I watched her discover graphic novels. And on that day, it was like I could see the switch flip to ON in her head.
She was hooked on reading.
She would devour books (of all levels and types) and then ask to go back to the library in the same week.
And, it happened over and over and over again.
She found an online book app and asked if we could sign up. (We did.) And, she read books of all types and levels on her iPad.
ALSO CHECK OUT : DEAR LIBRARY: I MISS YOU
Right before my eyes, I watched my daughter become a reader. All because I never made rules about how to read.
And, guess what else is happening? In my decision not to direct how to read, my daughter has naturally advanced herself along in reading, even picking some adult level books that interest her (and were topic appropriate).
Now, without fail, every time we go to the library, she also still finds picture books to check out . . . and some don’t even have words (or only have a few words).
And, I allow it because I never want to tell my daughter not to be interested in a book because it’s “beneath her level.”
Here’s an idea: How about we stop telling children to read at their “grade level” and start allowing them read what they love so they can develop a lifelong love of reading?
I fear that living in a society of do this, not that is crushing our kids’ natural love of learning.
When we take away something they love to use for learning and replace it with something we think they should use for learning, we are telling them that they aren’t good enough. We are telling kids that what they’re interested in isn’t good enough.
And, we’re effectively crushing their natural interest in learning … and this especially happens in our society when teaching kids how to read.
I’m not talking about first learning to read (although that counts, too). I’m talking about teaching our kids how to read — as in what they choose to read.
Why can’t a fourth grader read graphic novels as part of her reading? Or, why can’t she read picture books because she enjoys stories with fabulous illustrations?
The truth is: she can. They all can and should be able to choose what they want to read without fear that they aren’t at their “grade” level.
Picture books that inspire creative imagining is learning. Reading graphic novels that may also pique an interest in drawing is learning. Naturally progressing yourself to different levels and topics is learning.
Give them room to learn. The rest will follow. I promise.
And, please, for the love of all that is good, please stop telling children that they can’t read a book because “it’s not at their level.”