The Best Advice I Ever Received

A friend of mine is collecting advice for her newspaper column. I thought I share one piece of advice I use every day.

Do the Reading

The irony here is comical because I literally spend my days promoting best practices in reading and creating systems for kids to achieve in reading. All day long! Like all advice, one really doesn’t endorse it until long after the seed is planted and it takes time for it to germinate in our system. Until one day, it finally makes sense and an idea blossoms.

Early on in middle school, when the task of homework paired with the dinner hour and prime time tv wafted through the room, (which my mom eloquently dubbed, “the bewitching hour”), my dad would say, “Do the Reading.” Perhaps it was because he was tired after a long day of work or overstimulated or done with the antics of teenage siblings. Whatever the reason, this was his advice. I quickly learned I could easily manipulate someone into giving me the answers and avoid reading any chapters simply by weaving my school topics into a conversation.

I tried answering questions from the 7th grade science textbook without actually reading the chapter. I wrote down what my family members said in conversation and closed the book on the subject of homework. So, when I got them all wrong, it took the teacher and his grave look of disappointment, to point to one answer standing firmly “right there” in the chapter! It was an aha moment, and one I’ll never forget. Gosh, darn it! Doing the reading does work!

Of course, I didn’t learn it on my first try. I still tried filled out tax statements without reading the fine print. “Do the Reading.” I tried getting the gist and theme of that conch book without doing the reading. “Do the Reading.” It worked for awhile, but mostly I was procrastinating the beautiful art of reading.

It really wasn’t until years later, when I witnessed firsthand how much information I could actually absorb by reading, did I fully embrace his advice. It opened up a whole new world. I then took to reading for pleasure!

During my first year of teaching, I proudly wrote my name, Ms. Wood, on the whiteboard and my dad proudly wrote a piece of advice to my students, “Do the Reading.” It’s good advice.

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