Reading is a liberating act. It produces agency, a sense of independence and freedom of thought. This access to ideas and understanding is a most precious gift—one that is worth laboring over in pursuit of liberty.
In Reading for the Long Run: Leading Struggling Students into the Reading Life, Sara Osborne explores the riches and beauty of a deep reading life, most especially the unspoken experience of acquiring virtue through story, ‘A compelling vision of the goodness of goodness,’ as Vigen Guroian says. Reading can shape who we become, which as it turns out, is every advantage to readers who struggle.
Osborne is clear. Disability does not mark students as other or deficient, but rather as human, human in that we, parents and teachers, are all weak. And in Christ, that is a strength.
“The difficult path to the reading life produces a kind of character that is born through hardship. Both student and teacher are shaped by weakness—his manifest through the struggle to read, and mine through the struggle to teach him.”
It’s a unique equation that forms us through years of daily effort.
Through her personal journey as mother and educator of a son whose learning did not follow a predictable map, Osborne hospitably portrays the reality of the long road to reading. She first describes the ideal, the power of story and our ability to identify with characters, a distinctive process akin to Charlotte Mason’s idea of relationship with people and characters of the past, present, and future. Exposing young minds to plentiful rich language from every avenue is praiseworthy, but it is realistically accompanied by what Osborne calls the “unglamorous hours” of doing the work itself with a modest, oftentimes laborious, pace.
By likening the struggle of reading to running, Osborne, a distance runner herself, encourages families to pursue a series of steps to develop a workable plan. First, evaluate the student’s condition, including assessments from professionals. Next comes self-assessment along with finding a coach and fellow encouragers in print or person. The running metaphor continues. Like the right running equipment, finding the right materials for your reader is crucial, such as using viewfinders, large print resources, and color coding words. Scheduling practice, “chunking” reading practice into shorter bites, and other recommendations follow.
Reflective questions are sprinkled through each chapter as well as question and answer sections by seasoned voices—classical educator, Dr. Kevin Clark, and optometrist Dr. David Pierce, who specializes in vision-related learning problems. Most encouraging is the balance both men offer: concrete helps and educational values.
Though designed for a classical education audience, the short text has a broader aim. Any family mystified by reading delays, visual impairments, or other learning difficulties will find courage here in a way forward.
Osborne does indeed fulfill her stated purpose in the book’s introduction, providing the tangible steps needed to give any student “a ready entrance into exploring the good life and gaining its fruits. It’s a doorway I want to hold open for my child—and for all struggling readers.”