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Read a book to a child today.

March 21, 2011

From July 6, 2001

Is reading good for you? Let’s see.

Myopia is a problem of the Modern World. It is related to close-focus work, usually reading. For a long time, nearsightedness was assumed to be genetic. Even though it was rampant among holders of advanced degrees and other heavy readers, the genetic argument persisted.

Some even claimed that myopia correlates with intelligence, as if it were an indicator. In fact, such a correlation says more about the nature of intelligence testing. Good readers tend to do well on tests that require reading. Surprise!

In any case, heavy reading apparently increases the risk of nearsightedness. The Air Force noticed that many flight school recruits became myopic in the course of their intensive studies and, thus, ended up ineligible to fly jets. The Air Force asked the National Research Council to investigate and see if this was a myopia epidemic, but it was not.

Reading may be bad for you if you want to fly jets, except that if you want to fly jets, you have an awful lot to learn, and reading is the best method we’ve developed so far for such a task. Catch-22.

So, here we are, encouraging our children to read. What are we doing to our children? We must stop this insanity!

Regardless the risks of our current practice, reading is a vital skill in our modern world. You are better off being a better reader.

There are different approaches to the teaching of reading. Avid readers want children to love reading. Reading offers many pleasures, not to mention freedom, and so a love of it opens doors for learning, communication, and recreation. If you want your child to be a doctor or lawyer, she or he needs to be a good reader. Beggarman or thief, maybe not.

In a different approach, the Amish traditionally cut formal education short and make no special promotion of reading once a student has gained a functional level of skill. Reading is merely one skill among many, and while it can serve their pursuit of a Christian life, it can also hamper it, what with novels and such.

Of course, this can be argued of many things. Flyfishing, as an enjoyable and meditative pursuit, can add years to your life, but it might shorten your marriage. Depends.

The love of any pursuit makes it easier to pursue. Reading takes considerable practice, and so liking it helps a lot.

For most of us, reading has been “taught” to us by example as much as anything. The example is set by our parents and other adults around us for whom reading is simply a part of daily life. A teacher can help, as well, although school should not be necessary.

Children for whom reading comes easily often latch onto it on their own, in part for the freedom it gives them. There have been many self-educated people whose door to learning was their ability to read on their own.

The promotion of reading year after year may be tiresome to your ears, but education is an ongoing responsibility in any society, and free inquiry is a cornerstone of ours. Educating children is in your self-interest, especially if you’re planning on Social Security checks and a healthy stock market in the future.

If there is any reason for your existence beyond your own pleasures, it is to make the next generation. Help make it a good one. Read a book to a child today.

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