My daughter recently auditioned for the school play. They are doing Schoolhouse Rock. Everyone gets a part - the auditions are about the director getting a sense of the kids and what roles they should play. This year, one thing the director had the kids do was stand up and say one thing about themselves, naming something that they like or like to do. One boy we know said he that likes go-karts.
My daughter didn't get a turn on the first day and was able to discuss with me what she planned to say when her turn came around. She was deciding between saying "I like reading" or saying something about how she cares about her family and friends. (Secretly thrilled) I suggested that she go with the first option, because it would be more specific to her. I would think that all 1st to 3rd graders care about family and friends. This logic resonated with her, as she remarked that no one else had yet said anything about reading.
Later the same day (serendipity), I happened to be looking back through Raising Kids Who Read by Daniel T. Willingham. I came across a section in which Willingham talks about what it takes to raise a child who chooses to read. He said that it’s not enough for your child to have a positive attitude about reading and be a competent reader. The child needs to have “reader” be part of his or her “self-concept”. He illustrates the idea of self-concept (basically how you see and define yourself) using examples of Twitter bios (where people are forced to introduce themselves using relatively few word). He says:
"If “reader” is part of your self-concept, it will occur to you as a viable activity more often. “What will I do on that two-hour train trip? I could bring my iPod. Oh, I should bring a book too.” And of course, the more you read, the more “reader” becomes cemented as part of your self-concept. What I do and what I think of myself reinforce one another. Conversely, children who do not have “reader” as part of their self-concept are not likely to think of it as an option. They may be neutral or even mildly positive in their attitudes toward reading but do not see it as “one of the things I do.”” (Page 24, Raising Kids Who Read)
“Reader” is certainly a major part of my own self-concept, and has been for as long as I can recall. Knowing that my eight-year-old has "reader" as part of her self-concept is something for which I am deeply, deeply grateful.
I'm grateful to:
- Everyone who has bought books for her, since before she was even born. (Did you know that some of my blogger friends arranged a virtual book shower for me? I still treasure those books, in each of which I've written the giver's name. Special thanks to Sarah Stevenson, who brought me the books.)
- Authors like Daniel Willingham, Jim Trelease and Donalyn Miller, who have given me sage advice in my quest to raise a child who loves to read.
- The many others from my learning network, bloggers and tweeting teachers and commenters on the blog, who are simply too many to name.
- The real-world friends with whom we have traded books and recommendations and ideas.
- The publishers and authors who have supported my blog over the years by sending books, more and more of which are finding their way into my daughter's increasingly greedy hands.
- My daughter's teachers and school librarian, who have all encouraged her to develop and grow as a reader.
- Most of all, my husband. He has encouraged and supported my daughter's growth as a reader from reading to her in the womb to reading The Action Bible with her every night before bed during this school year.
Of course the journey is far from over. It's well-known that kids' interest in reading for pleasure tends to decline over time, as other occupations and interests get in the way. But I will do everything that I can to protect my daughter's conception of herself as "reader". Many thanks to all of you who I know will be rooting for us along the way.
© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage. Links to books may be affiliate links, for which I receive a small commission.