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Reading to A Child – A Lifetime Investment

 

"Teach a child to read and watch their mind grow."  ~ Laura D. Field ~ This picture was taken when our oldest, Heather, was one day past her second birthday - September 5th, 1988

“Teach a child to read and watch their mind grow.” ~ Laura D. Field ~
This picture was taken when our oldest, Heather, was one day past her second birthday – September 5th, 1988

I sometimes wonder what my daughters would have done if our house was empty of books.  Even from the moment they entered our lives, there was a world of wonder that we were able to share, even with those plastic and cardboard cover books.  Fun was enjoyed as we flipped open the covers of those peek-a-boo story discoveries.

Adventures were to be had, lessons were to be learned, and experiences with the knowledge of future possibilities, as they explored the world, while learning about people and different cultures.  The more we read to the girls, the more they wanted to hear the stories.  It did not matter if the story was old, new or one brought home from the library.  All that mattered was that there was time to be read to.

One of my fondest memories of reading to our children, was when I would finally get tired of the same story that was read multiple times, I would change things up and take them on a new story adventure.  Not from the confines of the binding of paper, but rather the adventures of discovery that I would create in my mind, then share it aloud as my own imagination grew.

We would lay back on their bed, as I asked them to close their eyes and imagine, as I told them stories of climbing mountains while discovering lost caves, sailing on a small boat as we rode the ocean waves, walking the beach as we found lost crabs, etc.  It did not matter if the story was true or fictitious, what mattered was that there was an adventure to be told.

The day our first daughter first entered elementary school, was a day that will always remain in my memory.  For weeks prior to the school welcoming all the new students, she was anticipating the moment in which she would begin to read on her own.  Little did I realize how literally she took my words as she asked throughout the summer, as to when she would independently read on her own.   I shared often, creating an excitement of anticipation for school to start, on how it would not be long for her to read these stories all by herself.

As she returned home, on that first day of school, there was a floodgate of tears.  When probing for an answer, the tears fell quickly as she blurted out with frustration, that she still could not read.  It was hard to hold back the tears and emotional laughter of pride, as her pain was so real.  As I held her in my arms, I explained to her that reading was something that she would learn over time as she needed to learn more of how the letters she knew, would work together to form words she so desperately needed to know.

With her strong sense of independence, which she has not grown short of even to this day, along with determination and pride, it was not long before her eyes were gliding over the pages of black on white with color photo’s giving depth to the words she read.  She absorbed what was written as if it melted into her soul.

The passion she had for reading gave her a yearning to venture into new worlds.  As the Christmas season approached, we could see that the library might not have the capacity to hold what her heart was ready to consume.  The skills to understand and consume written words found in hardcovers, paperbacks, etc., became a driving force within her.

If she was punished for not doing a chore or talking back, we discovered that sending to her room was not a punishment for her.  The moment to quietly reflect on what she had done was dissolved into a world of fiction and adventure.  She blew the cover off this little secret of hers the day she shared that she did not mind her punishment, as she was able to enjoy reading in the quiet of her room without her sister close by.

I remember having to revamp her punishment, to sitting on the couch with all reading materials removed from within the reach of her little arms.  It did not matter if it was a book for her reading level.  She would work her way through any magazine or book we would have in sight.  Finally, a punishment worthy of needed discipline, teaching her to mend her ways.

We were very fortunate that my husbands’ parents were avid readers themselves, with his mother being a special needs teacher.  She knew the discoveries and learning a young mind could encounter if given the chance to read.  Christmas each year was filled with books for all levels.  Big books, colorful books, challenging in order to encourage knowledge, adventure to enhance dreams, and of course favorite authors that the girls discovered over the course of each year.

As the girls got older, library day could not arrive soon enough.  They would pack their bags from what they had borrowed, preparing to return home with a new selection of titles.  By the time they reached their teen years, they had a great relationship with our local librarian Mary-Jo.  Marvelous librarian who soon discovered their favorite genre’ and would always let them know about the new ones that were out, as well as bring them new titles from the “big library”, setting them aside for their viewing.

Children are born with curiosity.  They have a strong desire to learn and grow.  And whether a family has the resources to travel, books have a way of bringing one to places they might otherwise not physically see.

Today our three daughters range from 18 – 26, and they still enjoy the gift of being able to read.  The stories have changed from the fun nursery rhymes and toddler adventures, that we would snuggle and read together, to new author and titles that have expanded past my own genre’ interest.   Their Christmas lists are full of book titles that their hands cannot wait to hold.

With five in the family, the variety of titles and subjects range from Romance, pilgrimage, life of the Amish, to a life of self-reliance.   There is science fiction, horror (definitely not encouraged by their mother), classics and more.  Then there are crafts of all sorts to appease all our skilled talents; using thread, fabric, scissors, paper and beads, along with wood-working, fishing, hunting and more.

Although my mother-in-law has now passed on, I think often of her delighted smile, as she looks down, thrilled that her passion for reading had been passed on to her children and grandchildren.  It is so rewarding that her gift as a special needs teacher still lives on, in the life of our oldest daughter.  The one who cried the first day of school, all because they did not teach her to read a book by herself, in that very first day?  Well, this child with a love for books, along with her masters in special needs education, is sharing her passion with special needs children and young adults.  Teaching them the love of a good book while seeing beyond the covers.  What she loves most about her job is seeing the excitement of a child as they capture themselves within the story they’re reading, while encouraging them to believe in themselves, where others were unable to lead.

The one thing I will never regret is having too many books for our girls to read.  Even if my husband or I only had time to read one short story as we tucked them into bed, it was worth the time we spent together.  Reading was a special gift to be shared as we traveled that imaginary adventure together.

If there is a child in your life, open the door and their mind to the adventure that awaits them.  This is where they might discover where their passion in life is.

Teach a child to read and watch their mind grow,

Laura

Would love to hear from readers on either:

  1. Your experience as a child being filled with the passion to read,
  2. Your experience with your child or grandchild, niece or nephew, reading to them as they spend time with you,
  3. Or, simply what you enjoy most about reading.

Feel free to leave your comments below – Enjoy!!

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