Nothing kills the spirit of desiring to do something more than being required to do that thing.

A true statement in general, here I’m talking about reading.  My son was an early reader.  I’m not saying this to brag – in fact, his mother and I were quite amazed at his early ability to put together words and sentences from his books… at the age of three.

I am saying this because, at seven, we seem to be losing him.  Why?  Required reading for school.reading

Every night (even on weekends), his mother and I are required to sign a “reading log”, confirming that our son has read for at least 20 minutes.  If we don’t sign the log, he gets no recess the next day at school (who thought this rule up?).  When this all started back in kindergarten, we figured “no problem”.

And for awhile, it wasn’t a problem.  He loved to read.  But now that he is required to read a fixed amount of time each day, it invites (and generates) resistance.  It’s simply human nature.

Jack Canfield has a great exercise in which he invites a member of whatever audience is lucky enough to have him as their speaker up to the stage.  He asks them to put their hand up, and then, without warning reaches up and tries to push their hand back down.  Of course, the natural reaction of the volunteer is to push back.  Point made.  Force invites equal and opposite force.

I love crossword puzzles.  But one of the best things about crossword puzzles is that I can do them when I want.  I can even choose to go a day or two without doing a crossword puzzles – an action (or inaction) which does nothing to diminish my love of crossword puzzles or word games in general.

In a recent letter to President Obama, more than 120 authors and illustrators (including children’s authors such as Judy Blume) ask the president to stop forcing the reading issue.  They understand that that the new rules do more to put kids off of reading – when all would agree that what we want is for the kids to develop a love of reading.

It’s time to stop forcing learning and time to get creative in finding alternative ways to encourage children to read.  In fact, I think it’s time to stop the forcing we do in many subject areas and use all the degrees, credentials, and brainpower of our teaching corps to find creative paths toward generating a love of learning for all students.

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