The Latin phrase Medice, cura te ipsum, which translates to the more familiar, “Physician, heal thyself,” sometimes haunts me whenever I am so bold as to coach my fellow parents. Despite my best efforts at presenting myself as an Obi-Wan Kenobi of education, when it comes to my own parenting practices, I often fail to heed the very advice I dispense so cavalierly in this space. Allow me to explain.
Inspired by the recent publication of “The Bookworm,” wherein you will find faculty and staff-authored reviews of best sellers like When Breath Becomes Air, Educated, and Dune to more obscure titles like The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, I decided to close 2018 by celebrating the intellectual and spiritual rewards of reading and by urging my fellow parents to make a commitment to continue with the important work of raising children who are lifelong readers.
You do not have to do much research to discover the correlation between reading and academic and professional success. One study suggested, “that reading for pleasure produces important benefits across a variety of academic disciplines (including math)” and that “reading is actually linked to increased cognitive progress over time.” Others found that the positive influence of language skills developed through reading, conversation, and family life “never ceases to be felt” across an individual’s life span. And still a third carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development suggested that ”reading for pleasure at the age of 15 is a strong factor in determining future social mobility. Indeed, it has been revealed as the most important indicator of the future success of the child.”
Some good news, then. In my short time at Falmouth Academy I have discovered it to be a school replete with readers. Whether in comfy chairs in the Buxton Library, in the corners of Morse Hall, or in little nooks throughout our hallways, here you will find noses buried in books, some assigned, but many not. Earlier this fall, I even spotted a student walking, book in hand, during the walk from her car to the front entrance! This very afternoon, I spent my lunch break with several students and teachers engaging in a book discussion about Jacqueline Woodson’s 1998 young adult novel If You Come Softly, the first installment of John Green and Rosanna Rojas’ Life’s Library initiative, a virtual book club taking place all year in schools across the country.
But back to my Latin phrase. I’ve done a lot right as a parent, but I cannot say that I have been vigilant and purposeful about raising readers. Where I was once religious about reading the kids to sleep each night, I tend to be the first person to turn in at night. And in so much as I work on my computer, check my phone, and channel surf at home, I have not been the best reading role model. In his article entitled, “What Works For Getting Kids to Enjoy Reading, Daniel Willington suggests that “books should not just be available, but virtually falling into children’s laps, or at least, visible in as many locations as possible: in the classroom, in every room of the house, in the car, and so on.” Pointing out that, “by the time kids are in their late teens, average media exposure approaches 11 hours per day,” he is a strong advocate for parents limiting the availability of other competing media. If kids see us reading, if we thoughtfully limit screen time, if we ensure books are everywhere, especially in our hands, our kids will read, and they will be the better for it.
As I look ahead to my first extended break in my new hometown, this is one physician who is going to make every effort to heal himself. See you at the bookstore.
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