READING IS FUNDAMENTAL in more ways than the obvious one.
So, why is reading so important you say?
Because reading is one of the tools through which we learn – without it, we miss so much. Without reading, we’d go through life with no sense of detailed history, no direction on our current path, a very limited guidance – always dependent on others, and no vision for the future.
You say, “Well so-and-so never learned to read and she turned out okay.”
Okay, meaning what exactly? Could so-and-so go into a grocery store and comprehend the nutrition labels enough to know the ingredients of the food put on the table for her children? What if so-and-so was lost in an unfamiliar city and there was nothing but a sign to guide her back to safety? What if, so-and-so wanted to put together a play set for her child, but used only the pictures and missed the warning labels of installation? The list is endless.
Finally, ask so-and-so how they have felt over the years without the ability to read and what limitations they feel they have endured…If she says “None,” then think again; that would be the pride talking, rather than the heart.
You Are What You Read
I have been and always will be, insha’Allah, an advocate for reading and instilling the love of reading in children.
A while ago I read a book entitled, The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, and I would like to share with you an excerpt from this book that I found very poignant:
Reading is the heart of education. The knowledge of almost every subject in school flows from reading. One must be able to read the word problem in math to understand it. If you cannot read the science or social studies chapter, you cannot answer the questions at the end of the chapter. The complicated computer manual is essential to its operations, but it must be read.
One can arguably state: Reading is the single most important social factor in American life today. Here’s a formula to support that. It sounds simplistic, but all its parts can be documented, and while not 100 percent universal, it holds true far more often than not.
- The more you read, the more you know.
- The more you know, the smarter you grow.
- The smarter you are, the longer you stay in school.
- The longer you stay in school, the more diplomas you earn and the longer you are employed – thus the more money you earn in a lifetime.
- The more diplomas you earn, the higher your children’s grades will be in school.
- The more diplomas you earn, the longer you live.
The opposite would also be true:
- The less you read, the less you know.
- The less you know, the sooner you drop out of school.
- The sooner you drop out, the sooner and longer you are poor.
- The sooner you drop out, the greater your chances of going to jail.
The basis for that formula is firmly established: poverty and illiteracy are related – they are the parents of desperation and imprisonment.
- 82 percent of prison inmates are school dropouts.
- Inmates are twice as likely to be ranked in the bottom levels of literacy as is the general population.
- 60 percent of inmates are illiterate.
- 63 percent of inmates are repeat offenders.
Why are such students failing and dropping out of school? Because they cannot read – which affects the entire report card. Change the graduation rate and you change the prison population – which changes the entire climate of America. The higher a state’s high school graduation rate, the smaller its prison population.
So common sense should tell us that reading is the ultimate weapon – destroying ignorance, poverty, and despair before they can destroy us. A nation that doesn’t read much doesn’t know much. And a nation that doesn’t know much is more likely to make poor choices in the home, the marketplace, the jury box, and the voting booth. And those decisions ultimately affect an entire nation – the literate and the illiterate.
The challenge therefore is to convince future generations of children that carrying books is more rewarding than carrying guns.
(Published 2001, Penguin Books).
And folks – if that’s not enough to get you excited about reading I don’t know what will.
So, what can you do to make reading a reality in your home?
Parents play a critical role in helping their children develop not only the ability to read, but also an enjoyment of reading. Start by limiting your family’s television viewing time. If you have books, newspapers and magazines around your house, and your child sees you reading, then your child will learn that you value reading. You can never over-estimate the value of your role modeling as a parent.
Reading with your child not only teaches your him/her that reading is important to you, but it also offers a chance to talk about the book, and often other issues will come up.
Books are a great tool to open lines of communication between you and others. Try finding library books about current issues or interests in your family’s or child’s life, and then read them together. For example, read a book about going to the doctor prior to their next visit, or find books about the location of your next family trip and become educated travelers.
Make reading a treat, not a chore and start as early as babyhood.
How Do You Read to a Baby?
Use small, chunky board books that your baby can easily hold onto.
Talk about the pictures and make sounds/talk in funny voices.
Help your baby touch and feel in texture books.
Find books with bright pictures of familiar things.
Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends daily reading to children beginning by six months of age.
Use that Local Library!
Your local library should be utilized fully:
- Check out books
- Attend special activities, such as story time
- Make your library a home away from home!
- Participate in reading programs/initiatives every year!
Reading for a Lifetime
There is no doubt that the more your children love to read, the more prepared they are for a successful future.
Reading is a necessity, especially for us Muslims. We need to educate ourselves about our religion and have the ability to contemplate ayahs and hadiths in our inner most thoughts. Reading is essential to promote healthy, strong Iman.
If reading is a part of the everyday life of children, they learn it. But, if reading is a part of the everyday family life of children, they learn to love it.