When kids learn to read, it is really something to behold. They figure out how it works, and they just start reading everything with any words at all on it. From the cereal box to the road signs, they want the world to know that they can read WORDS! But then, ah, that is when the trouble often begins. To become proficient readers and get beyond the “at, cat, bat, hat” stage, one must practice reading. I don’t think I can praise my early teachers enough, the ones I had in the first four years, because I remember that learning to read was a very happy experience for me. Many may already be aware, but multiple studies have shown a link between one’s third-grade reading proficiency and their likelihood of graduating high school, ending up in poverty, being incarcerated, and so on. Certainly, many other things could be discussed in that area, but perhaps another time.
Somewhere along the way, I lost my excitement for reading. I confessed in a previous blog that I didn’t like it during most of my school years. I remember one of my reading teachers, in particular, who all but begged me to read. She may be reading this right now saying, “Yes, child. I had to beg you to read.” I honestly can’t explain it. There were others, too, who tried to help. I recall a precious librarian who watched me aimlessly walk around the library without picking anything. She would sweetly engage me in conversation to see what my interests were. Lo and behold, the next time I returned to the library (under orders from the reading teacher), she would have a stack of books there for me and say, “What about these?” Bless these souls that tried to fuel the fire . . . they really did try.
Award-winning author Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux) said, “Reading should not be presented to a child as a chore or a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” You know, I think she has a point. On the other hand, J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter series) said, “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” I think she has a point, too.
So I offer two simple challenges in this week’s blog. One, try to remind kids, and yourself, that reading is a gift, not a chore. Two, if you don’t like to read, do yourself a tremendous favor and keep searching for the right book.
Now that I’ve challenged you, dear reader, I also want to ask a favor of you. The next time you get a chance, thank a teacher or a librarian. They work so hard to enrich young lives with the power of books!