Raising a Reader: Learn from my Struggle

You can find magic where ever you look. Sit back and relax all you need is a book.

Dr. Seuss

I have been an avid reader all of my life. I am the younger sister to a sibling who had a difficult time learning to read. Because I was ever present when he was working on reading…. I became a very young reader, and I never slowed down or looked back when it came to reading.

I thought my children would be the same as me. I modeled reading to them plenty! I had an environment rich with books as I had kept many of the books I owned in my childhood. I cherished lap time with my children and a book.

My first born was a lot like me. You know those first born kids are parent pleasers for quite awhile, so I believe he knew it made me happy to read to him. He took to reading quite easily and started reading the Harry Potter series in second grade. Yeah- I was confident I knew how to raise a reader.

And then, I had another child. This one didn’t like to sit still. He gave up his night time feeding early in his life, so that he wouldn’t have to sit on my lap. Once he had the ability to move- he was off! He was penned pinball by some family friends because he never stopped moving. We always knew when he got out of bed in the morning, as we would hear him running across the floor. Forget walking- running gets you there faster!

He didn’t have much interest in books. I put forth lots of effort to find the shortest books I could with the least amount of words to keep him interested in a book from start to finish. Ever heard of No David! By David Shannon? Yep- that was his favorite book. It has 60 words in the entire book. That was his limit.

We started reading only nights in our home when he was 7. I actually turned my non reader husband into a huge reader by doing this! My older son loved those nights and kept on his journey with Harry Potter. My younger son would try to sit in a chair to look at a book. I say try because he would literally complete an entire circle with his body on the chair while reading. Picture his feet where his head once was & his head nearly on the floor! It was his way of moving when we told him he needed to stay in his chair. We started with 10 minutes- we didn’t think sitting still for that short amount of time would be that difficult!

I didn’t give up. I bought him books about the activities he loved. I think we owed every hockey story on the planet! I battled his discouragement when he needed to read a book at school that was far too difficult for him by reading with him. I would read to him, and then with him, and then have him read by himself. This was all done with one page of the book. Repetition is supposed to help- right? Not with everyone.

In addition, my kids went to a small school and teachers, staff, and the librarian would compare my kids and their reading ability. Some even compared my youngest son to me when I was in school there. Geesh. That was tough on him! We didn’t do comparisons in our house. We reminded him that everyone had strengths and weaknesses. We loved him through the hard times and he continued to work on his reading skill. In high school, he chose to take a literature class- it was short novels.but I took that as a small victory!

My youngest is nearly 23 now. He still wouldn’t choose reading as a way to fill his spare time, but he recently became interested in reading John Maxwell leadership books and has been working his way through those. I asked him recently if he thought there was anything more I could have done to help him with his reading challenges. He said “IDK. Maybe read to me more?” He obviously doesn’t remember the struggles we had when he was young trying to read to him. I thought a bit about what things I never tried with him. Maybe I could have read with him on the trampoline? A little weird, but not impossible. Jump up and down and read. It might have worked. I could have tried reading to him when he was tired enough to begin sleeping. I could have read on car rides while my husband drove.

I guess the message is to be creative with your kids. Realize they will be individuals and may not be anything like you. No matter what- love them through the struggles. Don’t forget to forgive yourself when you feel like you should have done more.

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