Archives: education

Let’s Unleash Readers to Conquer the Divide


“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

Ray Bradbury

Once in a while I eavesdrop on academics who talk about reading. The subject fascinates me so I don’t even try to resist leaning closer when I have a chance to listen in on their discussions.

So color me surprised when I discovered my favorite reading experts believed our children are in the process of segregating themselves into two reading groups: those who form the I’m-a-reader-but-I-don’t-care variety, the majority who read only for practical purposes while the other kids fall into the I’m-a-reader-who-cares-a-lot family, a minority who treasure books.

It’s what a team of researchers dubbed The Reading Class, a divide between those in the 21st century who read book regularly and others who don’t.

Learning about this “divide” was the equivalent of a five alarm fire. Man the stations! Get the books! Quick someone grab a copy of Fahrenheit 451!

That is until I realized the reading experts weren’t disturbed. In fact, their attitude toward the shrinking reading-for-pleasure group, was, oh, so, que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be.

Yes, really.

The very people who best know the advantages reading offers, not only to elementary or high school kids, but also to adults, essentially gave a big fat yawn.

This puzzled me, to say the least. Don’t we all see reading linked with leadership, financial success, and empathy?

Teachers know it. Parents know it. Even kids know it.

“Kids of all ages see a correlation between reading and success.” – Kids & Family Reading Report, 2008

As the old saying goes, eavesdroppers seldom hear good things, and certainly I walked away with low spirits. Reading books cannot become a hobby for a few nerdy bookworms.

In light of that conversation, I ask you to make a point to share a book with a child today. Tonight. And tomorrow. Read together. Listen to a book-on-tape. Buy a book. Borrow a book. Lend a book. Download a book.

Let’s read so that books and recreational reading never becomes an adventure only a few enjoy.

Marshmallow or Willpower?

photo: vicki couchman

Have you heard of the marshmallow experiment? Back in the 1970’s a group of Stanford researchers watched what happened when a 4-year-old is left alone in a room with a marshmallow. She is told she will be given two marshmallows if she waits until the adult returns to the room to eat the marshmallow.

Of course, the adult doesn’t come back for 20 minutes or longer.

In the test, many of the children distracted themselves by humming, hiding the marshmallow, or moving it around the table. A few even nibbled the marshmallow’s edges.

Others waited until the door closed and promptly started munching. (I would have been in this group.)

The really interesting part of the research was what happened 15 years later. It seems that the children who delayed eating the marshmallow continued to exercise self-control and made better grades in school, got higher standardized test scores, and were less likely to have drug or alcohol addictions.

Interesting, no?

I’m reading all this material for a set of articles I’m writing on self-control, willpower, and delayed gratification. I’ll be sure to pass along more of what I discover in future posts, but I thought I’d share these few tips just in case you are interested in developing better self-control in 2012:

  1. Sleep. Yep, back to the basics. We have to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep to build real muscles as well as willpower muscles.
  2. Food. To quote Gomer Pyle, “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!” We need to eat. Good, healthy food choices are best for refueling, of course, but research is showing a very strong link between glucose (yeah, sugar!) and good decision-making.
  3. Exercise. Movement – even a 5 minute walk outside – is helpful for strengthening self-discipline and self-control.
  4. Stimulate Your Mind. Learn something. Take a challenging class or attempt a multi-step task (like a dance step). Or, unlearn something. Tie your shoes differently. Style your hair with the opposite hand. These tasks force us to focus and exert control, which pumps up our willpower muscles.
  5. Be Quiet. Spend time mediating or praying or being still. The slowed breathing and focus helps build self-control.

What about you? Do you have a lot of willpower? Able to delay gratification? 

Below is an updated marshmallow test. Oh the agony for these kids!