My third-grade daughter normally has to keep a reading log (and you know how I feel about that!) as well as write 1-2 paragraphs per week about the books she is reading, which are due on Mondays. But the last two weeks, she had to do neither, in order to lessen the workload on the days surrounding the NYS ELA tests (another topic about which I have a lot to say). I've been sick with what was first the flu and then pneumonia (that, plus our move into a still-being-renovated apartment account for my online absence lately), and this weekend her sister and dad were sick too. We couldn't entertain her much. My husband was worried that she was bored. But I knew better.
She was thrilled. Thrilled to have time to read just for fun. She read two books in their entirety and started another, and possibly finished another one in there. I read to her. She went to the library and checked out thirteen books (nowhere near her record of 27!), ranging from classics (Daddy-Long-Legs) to junk (every balanced diet - reading or otherwise - needs some junk).
She read and she read and she read. And she was so happy.
Sure, there's something to be said for reading deeply and analyzing what you are reading. But there's also a lot to be said for just reading for pleasure. Reading to be taken out of yourself. Reading to get absorbed in a story, in someone else's life, in the rhythm of the words. And I know that even this type of reading has all sorts of educational benefits: my daughter's vocabulary astounds me. She never opens a dictionary. She has learned from context. (That's why the best SAT prep is not vocab lists but reading.) But even if reading for pleasure had no educational value, who cares? There's nothing wrong with reading solely for pleasure. That's right. There's nothing wrong with reading solely for pleasure.
With high-stakes tests and new curricula and the Common Core, reading for pleasure has all but disappeared. The teachers no longer have time to let the children read independently, just for fun. They no longer have time to read aloud to the class books of their own choosing. What a loss.
Yes, some learning is boring and repetitive, of necessity (think times tables). But if you take the fun out of reading, children aren't going to want to read any more. I hope my daughter always finds joy in reading. And I hope she is granted the gift of time in which to do it.