Get off the literary stair master and stop counting the number of books you or your children are reading.

Upon returning from a fact finding trip to the US which included a visit to a NYC charter school, the UK Education Secretary announced that every student from upper-elementary through the high school grades should read fifty books a year. Read 50 books a year and become a reader —really?

Here is one more episode in the lengthy narrative on how to improve children’s literacy. I do not think the number of books a child reads determines how good a reader they are or if they will even be a life long reader. I think the most important outcome is not how many books a child reads, but how many conversations they’ve had about them.

Children who talk about stories better understand what they read. Better comprehension skills grow a child’s reading confidence, which directly correlates to the pleasure they find in reading. Let’s concentrate not on how many books children read, but how well they love the books they do read. Are they engaged readers, who know how to make connections between the books they read, ideas and experiences?

Help children find what to read and then, through conversation show them how to find meaning and pleasure in their reading. Children who get more from the books they read are children who will like to read.


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