Can you imagine a life without books? A world without getting lost in the pages of some mythical land full of dragons or pirates or hobbits or fairies? Or a world without tales of our ancestors — the mighty heroes and heroines who came before us? Or stories of regular, normal, everyday people whose stories remind us that other people struggle, laugh, love, and hurt just as we do. I certainly cannot, nor would I want to live in a world where I didn’t love to read.
I learned to love reading naturally. As an infant, my mother read me the classics of French literature – in French – along with traditional children’s literature. My favorite childhood memories were visits to the local library, where we were free to choose as many books as we could carry. And I couldn’t wait to see what book or series was waiting for me under the Christmas tree. Those Christmas presents introduced me to more new worlds of John D. Fitzgerald’s The Great Brain, L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, Louisa May Alcott’s Eight Cousins, and Irene Hunt’s Up a Road Slowly. You may think it strange that I can remember those Christmas presents from so long ago, but you never forget your friends or how you met them.
The love of reading comes from being read to at an early age. Reading together builds a close relationship as you snuggle close and forget everything other than the words and images on the page. Reading together should be a daily habit, and one that isn’t just relegated to bedtime. And don’t think that you have to stop reading together once the child learns to read. Keep reading together throughout the elementary years as long as you can to continue to build that love of the spoken word, engaging in a story, and sharing time together.
The love of reading can turn to drudgery when adults try to quantify reading. Book logs, book reports, and motivation programs that reward children for reading for a specified amount of time or a certain number of books read are punitive rather than fulfilling. Children read at different rates and at different levels, and they should never be penalized because their reading goals look different from those of others. Asking children to keep track of how many pages are read each night or insisting that they read one book of each type of genre takes away the joy and spontaneity of reading. It turns something pleasurable into a chore. Book logs and charts rely on extrinsic motivation and the idea that children must be rewarded to want to learn. In the Montessori environment we know this isn’t the case. We encourage reading for pleasure, building intrinsic motivation for lifelong learning.
“When reading is portrayed as something one has to be forced to do…students may draw the conclusion that it is not the kind of activity they want to engage in when given free time.” (Reischer, 2016)
The second Tuesday of November is Young Readers Day. Founded in 1989 by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and its corporate sponsor, Pizza Hut, Young Readers Day was created to “recognize the benefits and joys of reading.” (HelloKids.com) What will you do to celebrate and promote the joy of reading in your Montessori environment?
Reischer, Erica. The Atlantic, Education. “Can reading logs ruin reading for kids?” June 3, 2016. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/06/are-reading-logs-ruining-reading/485372/
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, November 12, 2019.