How do we teach our kids to harness their imagination?

all we really need to do is teach our kids how to read

When we read, we liberate, says Glück. We liberate a “companion spirit,” someone we have a relationship with, someone we are connected to. But I would add that we also liberate ourselves.

The degree to which we liberate depends on our level of intimacy with what's being read. 

If we are engaged, if we are intimately connected to not only the words on the page, but the world created within the text, we might liberate.

If we read without the end in mind, we might liberate.

If we read to inhabit that world and see through those eyes, we might liberate.

If we read to try on other identities and take risks and dream another's dreams and experience their fears, we might liberate the voices within the text and within ourselves.

But how do we liberate by reading? We have to actually read. 

But when do we learn how to really read? How to connect to a text and walk in that world? I don't remember an explicit lesson or conversation in class. I don’t remember receiving instructions on how to read. 

We learn letters and develop a vocabulary and receive definitions and are taught about parts of speech and elements of a story. But never are we taught how to connect to what we read.

I remember a slow burn of awareness. I remember losing hours immersed in a book, and thinking, “I liked that.” I remember lines and passages that opened my eyes and heart and thinking, “What else is out there?” I remember the world’s mysteries snapping into place on the page and thinking, “I want more.” I remember watching a feeling unfold on the page, something I’d felt uniquely intimate, a personal revelation, there! On the page! Succinctly and accurately captured! A surprise awakening, the deepest instant connection between myself and another human, a stranger no less! I remember feeling that and thinking, “Ok, I belong.”

Why are we not taught about this process? If reading can liberate a voice within and without, why are we not taught how to develop this reading muscle in school?

We find each other: books and authors and their people. Over the years, we connect with others who think and feel in ways that are attractive to us. And we congregate and connect. 

But imagine what might happen if we were introduced to this process earlier. What if we are taught how to connect to a text, and why it happens, and why it’s important in elementary school? In junior high, please in junior high. High school and beyond! 

We want to raise curious, resilient, life-long learners who understand that their story matters, and we complicate the process. When all we really need to do is to teach them how to read.

I don't remember being taught how to look for authors and books I might like? How to find more of what I like? Or how to find books I would like from other parts of the world, and why that’s important, not only to my education but for my peace of mind. 

I certainly don't remember being taught how to harness inspiration, or how to act on that inspiration, how to use the imagination to execute on my dreams. I don’t remember learning how to explore the nexus of text and imagination, daydream and inspiration, to translate those into systems and motivation and activation through organization. 

If we start teaching our kids how to read, they not only gain a greater understanding of the world and of themselves, but begin to understand where they belong and they come to know that their voice matters. We can help them develop agency and belief and hope, and understand how to both survive and thrive. 

How did you get to be you? How did you get where you are now?

Words were shared.

Now imagine what that journey looks like if you were taught how to harness the power of your imagination from early on? What if you were taught how to translate the imagination into words and action at 10? At 7? At 5? 

Imagine if you were given a book, and told that everything you needed, no matter how stuck you felt, at any point in your life, was in that book or any other book you could get your hands on. What does your journey look like then? With that knowledge and opportunity in hand, imagine where you would be. Imagine where our kids might go if they are given access to that opportunity.

If we can show our kids that the simple act of reading, really reading, is an act of survival, their potential increases exponentially. 

If we instill this opportunity, if we explain that reading is a perspective-shaping process that sculpts them into a beautiful, unique, energizing source of light that helps them discover and connect to who they truly are, imagine the possibilities.

If we show them how simple this is, that they have the tools they need from a very, very early age, and that those tools will allow them to be who they want to be, imagine how liberating that would be, for you and for them.