Reading – Fitness for the Brain
As I encourage my students to take part in our school’s summer reading program, I can’t help but remind them that their brains are muscles too that need “exercise” over the long summer break. We’re all aware of the benefits of exercise to make us stronger and healthier, and we know how much knowledge we can gain through reading. Both activities consume a significant portion of my life; it seems only fitting I provide my twist on how the two activities correlate:
1. We travel. On the track or treadmill, we walk, bike or run. When reading, we travel to destinations we may never physically reach. I’m anxious to race through And The Mountains Echoed by Khaleo Hosseini, for instance, and travel to Kabul.
2. We strive for goals. With exercise, we strive to achieve certain goals: shed pounds, prepare for a run, or master a skill. With reading, we similarly strive to achieve a goal: finish a book, read the next book in a series, or learn something found within the pages.
3. We balance. We balance what we read for fun, for work and school. Similarly, testing our balance physically benefits and lessens chance for injury.
4. We practice. In the classroom, students practice strategies modeled by the teacher until those strategies become an automatic part of one’s reading repertoire to build comprehension. In the gym, fitness folks practice exercises modeled by the personal trainer until those exercises build muscle to a desirable shape or size.
5 We hit obstacles along the way. Whether we literally hit obstacles (as pictured above) or hit a mental block and lose motivation, no one in the gym is constantly “on.” Both good and bad days play integral parts of the process to help reach goals and grow stronger. By the same token, we have good and bad times reading – sometimes there will be more distractions, some days will include more difficult text, and some days we will simply be bored. Success lies in how we face these obstacles.
6. There are no shortcuts. We can’t get stronger by osmosis; it takes some sweat but even just a few moments of exercise a day adds up to burned calories. By the same token, we can’t become better readers without reading. Study upon study shows the number one way to improve reading is simply to read – as little as 10 minutes a day is all it takes to improve our reading comprehension, fluency and enjoyment.
7. We get stronger. Day by day, rep by rep . . . our muscles grow. Lesson by lesson, book by book . . . . our brains grow smarter. 🙂
8. We get up and try again. Both are never-ending processes that cause continual growth. Whether in the gym or the classroom, we strive toward a goal, learn ways to achieve that goal, practice and encounter obstacles along the way, and keep going until we become stronger readers or fit. Keep running, keep reading!
**Thank you to Scott Robbins for these photos.**