We need to be a nation of readers. We need to all be truth seekers with open minds and open hearts. We need to be savvy consumers of information, not easily manipulated. We need to be innovative problem solvers. We need to grow in empathy and insist on compassion. We know that constant readers are more likely to be all of these things, and our free society depends on these free thinkers.
And so we in education are not just teaching children to read, we are hoping our students will become adults who always read freely and protect our democracy and our earth.
But what if what we do as educators actually makes our students never choose to read again?
What if we discourage every attempt they make to discover what they love to read?
What if they are told they cannot read that graphic novel, and they never choose another book?
What if they are told that the book they want to read is too easy or too hard, and they never trust themselves to choose a book again?
What if they are told they must finish the book they started before they can read another book? Will they be haunted by that unfinished book and never pick up another?
What if they are told they must be tested and graded over everything they read? Will reading always seem like a burden?
What if they are told there is only one way to interpret a book’s theme or an author’s purpose? Will they never try to think for themselves again?
What if they are always told they are not able to choose the “correct” reading material on their own? When will they see them selves as responsible for their own learning?
What if they are told they are losers if they don’t read more than their peers? Will they always see reading as a competition they will lose?
What if there is a great opportunity for our students to see themselves as readers, and we squelch it?
We know the answers to these questions, and we need to feel an urgency to let the future adults we teach each day have the chance to become free readers for life. We need to ask ourselves, "What if they never read again?"
We need to let them read what they love every day now, so they will continue to do so all their lives.
Because we need a nation of readers.