The (Reading) Circle of Life

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 29:  Five-year-old Ayana Ruslan and her mother Altinay Kuchukeeva read a book by photographer and ar
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 29: Five-year-old Ayana Ruslan and her mother Altinay Kuchukeeva read a book by photographer and artist William Wegman (NP) at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, DC on January 29, 2015. Wegman (famous for his shots of Weimaraner dogs in dress and funny situations; lately author of children's books) visited the pediatric oncology center to read his latest book 'Flo and Wendell Explore' for kids, and he is donating five photos to the hospital. Twenty two additional photos will be sold with all proceeds going to the hospital. The Lombardi Center is exhibiting his work in the atrium. (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

As you've already read, I believe that education is one of the most important cornerstones to a brighter future. You can also guess that as an author, I'm a huge fan of books and that as a former school administrator, I truly believe that reading can change everything for a child. These are pretty constant realities for me, but just today I was struck with how the road to success is pretty much paved with reading cobblestones.

I'm doing lots of preparation for an upcoming event filled with promise: the EpicFest at the Charlotte Public Library, where I'll be leading a parent/family workshop. When we talk about "education," we're always so focused on the classroom. Rightfully so, because we all want our children's time in the classroom to be the best it can be. But I can't help but feel that sometimes we forget that on average, students spend more than 70% of their time outside of the classroom. This 70% is something we can much more effectively work to improve. It's no surprise that the best way to improve our children's education is to focus on reading.


Analytical and critical thinking skills, intellectual curiosity, creativity and vocabulary development are just some of the benefits of reading. If there are so many clear benefits, why aren't we reading to our children more?

According to Dr. Stephen Krashen in The Power of Reading, "the single factor most strongly associated with reading achievement - more than socioeconomic status or any instructional approach - is independent reading." That's part of the reason why I decided to shift gears and transition from a motivational speaker and author for adults and instead focus on encouraging children to strive for greatness.

While recently visiting Midfield Elementary (just outside of Birmingham, Alabama) and a number of other schools since the release of There's Greatness on the Inside, I am continually surprised at the response received by students of all ages when I read aloud and more importantly when we gift students with books. For many students, receiving their very own book is a first and is also a first for many families.

I get to do a lot of events all over the country, but my favorite events are ones in which I can interact directly with parents about how to improve their child's reading skills. Of all the things we can do, reading to our young children is probably the most important way we can prioritize education and improvement in young people. As I outline my remarks, I'm motivated by the electric excitement I get just from knowing I'll have an opportunity to maybe, just maybe, make one family's path to educational greatness just a little bit easier. Let's all think about how we can read to the young people in our lives and help build a better tomorrow- for all of us.