Shouldn’t reading to your kids be mandatory?

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?

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11 Comments

Filed under Education, Uncategorized

11 responses to “Shouldn’t reading to your kids be mandatory?

  1. kyle

    If everyone read to their kids it would just make it harder for my kids to excel.

    Until we can all get together and automate all the crap jobs that kids who weren’t read to will fill someday we should just hold the same course.

    How many universities would we need?

    Doesn’t the world need ditch diggers?

  2. Jason Scott

    Kyle, while your comment is tongue-in-cheek yet still fairly offensive, it does illustrate the point: kids whose cognitive development is not nurtured at a young age will always be at a disadvantage.

  3. kyle

    My message should be taken at face value. There are fluffier PC ways to say the same thing but I wasn’t being facetious in the least.

    “still fairly offensive”. Which part my my reply was offensive? Obviously the point of my message is not offensive to you because it mirrors yours.

    Children who are not read to are at a disadvantage. Should I take away the advantage my kids have gained by reading to other’s children who could care less or don’t know any better?

    Huge social changes are required before the socialist view of life (that you seem to be proposing) can be achieved.

  4. Jason Scott

    Kyle–your choice of language seemed intentionally offensive, but if you don’t think so that’s fine, I’ll be OK.

    Yes, you should read to other people’s kids. Your kids will have an even greater advantage in life: having a father that reads to disadvantaged children.

    Socialist? On some issues I might fall into that category but here I’m talking about state thugs in jack boots kicking in the doors of parents who don’t read to their kids and placing them in the public stocks. How’s that socialism?

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  6. Dave Stoddart

    Excellent post, Jason.

    If we compare the efforts made in Canada to facilitate the learning of pre-schoolers with those of most other civilized countries it is shocking how backwards we are. It is nice to see that we are gradually beginning to make some progress in this regard with the introduction of full-day kindergarten and the local Spark program. But we still have much work to do.

    Education is like any other form of investment: the earlier you invest, the greater the eventual yield.

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