Is There a Cure for Our Educational Sickness? (share this message if you agree)

Since everyone agrees our situation with reading and education is not good, let’s spend no time complaining. Let’s instead ask a question: If an effective solution existed to allow our children to learn and make our schools work, what would it look like? If we want to improve something, don’t we have to have a goal in mind? Stephen Covey in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People[i] called it “Begin with the End in Mind”. When Alice asked the Cat, “which way I ought to go from here”, his response was “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”[ii] One important value of setting goals is they tell us which actions may get us where we want to go. Once started, goals tell us if we are going in the right direction. Instead of arguing about what is already being done in education (that isn’t working), let’s imagine the best possible results for reading and learning and see what they tell us.

Setting the right goal

Without worrying whether something is possible or not, let’s imagine the very best scenario. As the expression goes, in a perfect world we would want:

  1. Our children to love reading and be really good at it.
  2. Children coming to school, ready and willing to learn.
  3. Parents who read and learn, being a good example for their children.
  4. Parents who spend time with their children, building positive relationships.
  5. Parents who read and discuss great stories with their children, building comprehension and communication skills.

Some might consider this a silly exercise. Shouldn’t we focus on what is possible?

How useful would goals be if we only aimed for what we believe is “possible”? When JFK set the goal of a man on the moon, the technology didn’t exist, so weren’t we shooting for the “impossible”? When we stick to doing only the possible, aren’t we possibly overlooking the possible we haven’t thought of yet? By focusing only on answers that we believe are possible, we actually prevent the answers which could fix our problem from being considered. Imagine this scenario.

  • We need food to survive.
  • Therefore we need people to grow food.
  • But, since we believe nobody wants to be a farmer, there’s no point teaching people to farm.
  • Therefore, we need to find another answer. For example, some might suggest: stop having children so we don’t have to feed them; or everybody just eat less.

You might think this a ridiculous example. But, when I tell educators about a way that parents can read with their children that 1) sets a positive example; 2) builds positive relationships; 3) gets parents to read and discuss, building comprehension and communication skills; 4) gets children to love reading and become really good at it in a miraculously short amount of time; and 5) prepares children for school so they are ready and willing to learn; the answer I hear most often is this: “You’ll never get the parents to do this.” So they walk away, having heard what they believe to be impossible. In a way, aren’t we saying:

  • We need children to love reading and learning.
  • We could ask parents to spend time building the love of reading and learning in their kids.
  • But, since we believe parents won’t do that, there’s no sense asking or expecting them to do it.
  • Therefore, we believe we have to find another answer.

And that is where we are today with reading and learning in America. The good news is that there are parents who are doing the “impossible”. They are doing those very things that many say we can’t get parents to do. And their children are flourishing. The question before us is which goal we should shoot for. Do we continue doing what we believe is “possible” and ignore what scientific studies and common sense tell us will work? Or, do we set the “impossible goals” and do what it takes to reach them?

What if the only thing holding us back is our belief that we can’t do it?


[i] The Seven Habit of Highly Effective People; Copyright © 1989 by Stephen R. Covey; Simon and Schuster

[ii] Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; published 1865 by Lewis Carroll

astronaut with PTR

Henry Skinner-Larsen is the author of Point to Reading and the PTR Jumpstart Manual. The principles of Point to Reading™ are based on the belief that our children are smarter than we imagine and can learn way faster than we allow. In addition, we can best prepare our children for success by sending them to school already knowing how to read. That way, children can learn and teachers can teach.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s