We’ve all seen and maybe even lived images like this one: kids who are so connected to the book(s) they are reading that they go out of their way to sneak in some extra reading time. To those of us who were (or are) like that ourselves, it might resonate with nostalgia or understanding. To those of us who did not (or do not) find ourselves craving time with books, it might resonate with curiosity and puzzlement. Regardless of our own experiences, I suspect that we all recognize in this type of child, this “connected” or “engaged” reader, a sense that something positive is happening.
As an educator and parent, I began to ask myself why is it that some of us have this connectedness to reading and others do not. I knew anecdotally, as a reader myself, that if I lacked engagement, my reading experience was significantly impacted! I struggle to maintain my focus on the text, to comprehend, and to get through the whole text. I disengage for lots of reasons – I have something else on my mind or am distracted by noises or activity around me. The biggest reason why I disengage, however, is the text itself. When I am reading a text that doesn’t match me and my needs and interests as a reader, I struggle with engagement. If this happens to me as an adult, I knew that the impact of engagement on younger readers must be substantial.
Not surprisingly, many educators and researchers find that reading engagement is, well…, everything. Without engagement, the strategies and skills we teach to children just don’t take hold. Without engagement, top levels of achievement are not likely. Most important to me, however, is that without engagement, young readers will not experience the joyful, “stuck in a book” feeling that motivates them to seek out more and different reading experiences in the future.
Reading engagement is important, really important. Our children will achieve more and enjoy more. They will identify as readers and take ownership for their reading lives if they develop this connection with reading.
I believe that nobody has more influence or ability to nurture reading engagement in children than parents. We have the incredible privilege and opportunity to offer our children joy and company from text of all types.
Engagingreaders is a place where we can think together about how to nurture an engaged stance in young readers, starting from the earliest days, well before formal schooling begins.