Is it good for children to love reading? The question sounds blasphemous, doesn’t it? Obviously we want children to love reading. Do we want them to really love it, though, in an English major sort of way?
When I was a child, my parents sometimes had to force me to put down a book to go outside to play. Playing outside was fine, especially if other kids were involved, but it also came with the risk of bee stings and scraped knees. Books provided adventure from the safety of my favorite rocking chair, a place I spent so much time that I started to wear holes in the tan fabric. I sometimes found the clever middle ground and carried my book outside, plopped down on our front steps and reopened it. I was outside, wasn’t I?
Eleanor is also the sort of child who has to be forced to put down her book, whether to play outside or come to the table for dinner. She told me on the walk to school a few days ago that she wants to learn to read really big books, the kind that I read. Has she already tired of her collection of Boxcar Children and Magic Treehouse books? First-graders are so jaded these days.
I know that a love of reading is linked to success in school and also to greater empathy. Plus, I want to be able to discuss books with Eleanor someday. But as we walked, I pondered how I could work math into our conversations more often. It’s okay to love books, just not too much. Love something else with better employment prospects, Honey!
Fortunately, Eleanor is only 7 and has already declared her intentions to be an artist. (That’s a relief!) Reading is great for school and great for a hobby but not so great for finding work. Not that money is everything, but when I consider my friends, I would say that reading has a negative correlation with income. The more we read, the less we earn. Far better to like books and love math or science, it would seem. Though I imagine that many of you would defend reading to the end because of the way it enriches your lives.
So, is reading worth it? Or does it lead to a lifetime of suffering at jobs where you are undervalued?