Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Love of Reading

One of my core beliefs is that every child can become a reader. Every child. When I meet children who don’t like reading, I assume they haven’t met the right books yet. That being said, it is easier for some than others. Not because they were born with a special ability, but because of the homes they were born into.

See, while I think everyone has the potential, I think that if your parents value reading, you have a huge advantage.

I have met many kids who love to read and were not taught that at home. For some, reading becomes an escape. For others, their parents see reading as a hobby, one they simply don’t share. But for kids who have parents that are readers, kids that grew up watching their parents read, grew up taking trips to the library, grew up having books given as gifts, reading is expected. Sure, there might be the child in that house that doesn’t read, but I would argue that the odds are lower than in other homes. Reading is important. Reading is valued.

I have two boys. Their path to reading was completely different. For one, it was easy. For the other, it required a lot of intervention and work. Both ended up as readers. Now, their reading lives are different. Luke is in middle school. He’s busy. His friends are of high importance in his life. So are video games. While he has always loved reading, it takes a back burner. I see my role with him as the reminder of this hobby that he used to hold dear. I will be the raft to get him through these middle years, keeping this connection afloat, until he returns to it on his own. Luckily, he’s a pretty easy child. When I remind him that he has to go to bed early, needs to read, he does it willingly. We lay together often so I can ask him what is happening in the book he’s reading, continuing the conversation. I leave picture books and graphic novels laying around the kitchen when new ones are shipped to our house, knowing that neither he nor his brother can simply walk by without picking them up to read. He is a reader, but one that is debating hibernating a bit. I won’t allow a full sleep.

Liam is reader who has fully awakened. Where it might have been a spark of interest before, it is something he does whenever there is free time now. He loved books before fourth grade; now he is devouring an entire series in the span of a week or two. And what I love to see even more is that he is connecting beyond the books. After reading Sasquatch Escape, he went online on his own to see what other book were in the series. He came to me with notes, would I purchase the rest of the series? Could I preorder the new one out in early 2015? You bet. Then he wrote a letter to the author as part of a school assignment. Looking over my shoulder at my computer one night, he asked if I followed her on Twitter. I hadn’t, so we fixed that.

Then he met Origami Yoda. Like his brother had been, he quickly became obsessed. He has flown through the first three books in the series. I have a new note, telling me which books he needs his own copies of. At lunch with his grandma the other day, I turned and saw he was reading. When asked, he said he was at a good part and simply couldn’t pause yet. I took a photo and shared on Twitter and the author, Tom Angleberger, responded. Liam was beaming. He whispered that he wanted to write Tom a letter, even though he didn’t need to for school. So sweet. Finding him in my classroom after school yesterday, I saw a picture of concentration – book before him, tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth, brows drawn. What could possibly inspire this? Then I saw my origami paper. He was making his own Origami Yoda based on the directions Tom gave. We have a reader, ladies and gentleman.

My two readers, both at such different stages. Both blessed to be in home where that is a priority, reading is valued. Where their parents will nurture their growth and not allow them to let that love disappear. And at school? My seventy-seven kids don’t all have that blessing, so I try to become that role model, that cheerleader for them and only hope it will be enough to last a lifetime.