This week, I have been listening to Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and I was listening to stories about Bill Gates and the Beatles. Gladwell shares their stories as examples as to why he believes 10,000 hours of practice is the magic number when it comes to achieving mastery. Not long ago, I talked about The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. Coyle's book explains how brain research supports the idea that practice makes perfect because we can see how myelin builds up in the brain with more practice. It is physiologically true that practice does make perfect. The Talent Code also explains that there is a specific kind of practice, it's not just about doing something, it's about doing something in a very focused way with feedback and support that truly makes practice meaningful. Here is an infographic from Zintro that brings the idea of 10,000 hours of practice to life.
There are so many implications for this and I definitely recommend reading The Talent Code because it's a fascinating look at what kind of practice makes perfect. As I was listening to Outliers on the way home, I started thinking about how long it would take a student to get to 10,000 hours of reading.
It made me think about my kindergartner. His teacher asks us to read with him 20 minutes every night. I was curious, if he only reads 20 minutes a day, how long will it take to get to 10,000 hours. And then I started doing all sorts of math calculations...and math is not my strong area, but I was completely enchanted with figuring this out. (Please tell me if I miscalculated!) Here is what I found:
10,000 hours x 60 minutes in an hour = 600,000 minutes
600,000 minutes / 20 minutes = 30,000 days
30,000 days / 365 days in a year = ~82.2 years
I had to do this three times because I really didn't expect it to be 80 years and I just couldn't believe it. At that rate, is 20 minutes a night even worth it? Doesn't this kind of put into perspective what 20 minutes a day really means? And how are we supporting students to get the kind of reading practice that truly does make an impact.
I reminded myself that Peanut's phenomenal teacher does Daily Five with his class so he does get more time to read at school. Our 20 minutes of reading at home is definitely the minimum he gets every day but when I think of schools or teachers who don't provide time for sustained silent reading, time to confer with their teacher, or time for students to share with each other and develop and be part of a reading community, it makes me feel like I'm going to hyperventilate. If we don't make time for students to practice reading and working with text, how can we truly expect them to develop into master readers. And taking this to another step, if we don't allow them the time to become strong readers, what implications does that have on their writing abilities? I truly believe that by reading more and well, we can be better writers (no matter how old you are!).
Let's do a little more math. In Outliers, Gladwell, explained that to get to 10,000 hours or focused intense practice that leads to mastery, it will take about 10 years.
10,000 hours / 10 years = 1,000 hours per year
1,000 hours / 365 days in a year = 2.74 hours per day
2.74 hours / 60 minutes = 164.4 minutes per day
If we want to support children in mastering reading in ten years, it would mean 164.4 minutes per day of reading or 2.74 hours a day. And then I started thinking about how much we have read with Peanut since he was born and how I think he had a great foundation going into kindergarten. But not every child has that kind of foundation. This directly links to The Talent Code because without all the reading done before going to school, Peanut's brain has already started to build myelin so that his brain physiologically ready for reading.
I wanted to share my math work here because I think the numbers speak loudly. As a teacher, it's a clear reminder of how imperative it is that we give students time to read and then support them in the seven ways mentioned above in the infographic. As a parent, it gives me some perspective that I can apply to the 20 minutes the school is asking us to do at home.
How do we do this as teachers or readers?
I strongly believe that what we do as adults, we model for kids. This carries over into so many other elements of our lives but it is truly imperative for developing reading and writing skills. If you are a teacher or a parent, please think closely about what you are modeling for children. Are you helping them engage in authentic experiences with reading and writing and communities around reading and writing? Books like The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and Book Love by Penny Kittle are excellent resources for teachers. I suggest looking at who you are as a reader or writer in the wild and then helping bring that to children. Spending time to read with a child and talk about reading is so important.
Last week, I volunteered for the Scholastic Book Fair at Peanut's school. I had volunteered in the fall while Peanut stayed home with my husband. This time, I asked Peanut if he wanted to go with me. I explained that our job would be to help people find books and to check books out. He was so proud to be a helper and to be an expert on where books were around the fair. This was only one way of helping him see how important books are but at the same time how important it is to volunteer and help when we can.
On Friday, we went to a baby shower for a friend and were asked to bring books. I already knew what book Peanut would want to give to the baby because we have given books to other babies. When I asked him, he answered Good Night, Gorilla which is what I anticipated he would say. Giving him the opportunity to choose what book to give as a present made him think about what book he loved the most and what book he would want to give.
Again, think about what adult readers do and then work towards providing experiences for children that will lead them to these lifelong practices adults engage in. Don't settle for 20 minutes of reading at home...more has to be done in a thoughtful and yet authentic way. What do you do to support students or your children at home? I would love to hear any ideas you have!