I'm always in awe when I hear an adult say that he or she doesn't enjoy reading. As an avid reader, I can't imagine a life in which literature didn't have the ability to move me in some way. Many of my earliest and fondest memories involve books and language, and I remain enthralled with the magic of the written word to this very day.
Nevertheless, I realize that there are many who may be literate, but still don't identify as readers. This puzzles me, as I truly believe that children are inherent lovers of words, language, and literature. I've never met a young child that didn't enjoy a good story, whether cuddled up in the lap of a loved one or sitting on a classroom rug. What happens as they age? How do the very children who begged to be read to as youngsters become adolescents, teenagers, and adults who wouldn't pick up a book if their lives depended on it? Though I've never been brave enough to ask, I can only assume that such a disdain for reading stems from some type of negative experience with literacy. What type of experience would make someone hate to read?
As an educator, I've worked with students from all walks of life. I realize that a child's home literacy experiences greatly impact their literacy achievement and motivation. However, as great as that home influence might be, I also know that the classroom teacher has the power to instill a love for literacy and learning in every child who walks through his or her door. Conversely, that same teacher also has the ability to weaken and sometimes eliminate that same love.
Yes, I said it. Whether consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or accidentally, sometimes it's us. Through book level shaming, grade shaming, eliminating free reading and book choice, devaluing contributions to discussions, dismissing alternate points of view, neglecting to model what a literate life looks like, shoving awful literature down thirsty throats, limiting access to books,and the list goes on. Sometimes it's us.
When I think of this, it saddens me. How many children have been and are now being turned off from reading in the very place where literacy should reign supreme? How many of these same children will become adults who hate to read? Most importantly, what will we do about it?