Today is Family Literacy Day, but there have been exciting things going on in School District 46 all week. I enjoy the chance to get into classrooms as a trustee, but the fact that we need a literacy day as a society raises some interesting questions.
Far be it from me to be a little cynical, but isn’t it time to move beyond “encouraging” parents to read to their children? Are we okay with the fact that many children aren’t really introduced to books until they enter school? Don’t we owe it to children to stop walking on eggshells around these issues?
Especially since we now know, unequivocally, that children who aren’t introduced to some key concepts in the first five years of their lives will NEVER reach their full potential. Think about that for a while.
We have laws for almost everything else in our society, but the one thing that would truly make a difference–ensuring children become healthy, happy, capable adults–is for some reason off-limits when it comes to legislation.
What are you planning on doing today? Chances are there’s a law for that–unless it’s parenting.
There are laws for parking your car, having pets, wearing pants, watering your lawn, and shoveling snow. But do you have to raise your kids in a manner that will give them a decent chance in life? Nope, that’s completely up to you.
I know this is an emotional issue, for all kinds of reasons. I also know some will react and compare the idea of enforcing reading to some fascist regime, but think about what that means: Are you really going to defend a person’s right to raise a child poorly? What about the rights of that child?
Again, it would be one thing if we lived in a laissez-faire sort of society, with very few limits, but that’s not the case. As a society we have placed limits on almost everything. But for some reason parenting hasn’t been deemed important enough to require standards.
Clearly we have laws around physical safety for children, but nothing to ensure that a child’s cognitive development is adequate.
Of course, enforcing such a requirement would be difficult and would raise difficult questions, but isn’t it time to start publicly talking about these issues? Or should we continue to focus on tinkering with drinking and driving laws and parking tickets?
If education is the answer, that’s fine, but let’s take a little harder line on the message. It’s time to move from:
“You should probably read to your children if you’re comfortable with that,” to:
“If you aren’t reading to your children they are much more likely (statistically) to become drop-outs, criminals, and/or drug addicts.”
What do you think?
Do we owe it to children to take the kid gloves off?