Reading is the most important life skill that anyone can give to their children. I hadn’t really thought much about it before having children. I remember when I learned to read and how I used to love to go to the library as a young child in school. The teacher would tell us to pick out a book then we’d go back to class and sit in our little reading area and have quiet reading. I loved that part of school. Being a quiet and rather introverted child, I didn’t like being called on or called up to the front of the class. Reading time was peaceful, relaxing, and a time when you could drift away into another world.
I wish I could remember the name of the book I used to pick almost every time. It was something about someone who shrank and made a bed out of a match box and a table out of a spool of thread. It was a lovely make believe world and my imagination took me there, as if I was part of it, whenever I would read the story. It’s a wonderful gift to give your children, the ability to read, and to read with understanding. To be able to read and get lost in a story is a magical thing, because our imaginations are so much better than any movie.
When my oldest was small I would read to her every night, she loved to listen to the stories over and over. She had her favorite books memorized, at two years old she could sit and turn the pages of her book and quote the book word for word verbatim. Anyone that would see her do this would think she was reading. You could read anything to her, a dictionary, a newspaper, or a medical journal, just anything. She would listen as long as you would read. When I began to try and teach her to read she refused, she’d tell me she just wanted me to read. I suppose she didn’t want to take time away from the story and I was messing that up. But when she got into 1st Grade and found out that her little friend could already read she was upset with me! So, as quick as she could she learned to read. She read everything, everywhere, all the time. She couldn’t get enough. I was thrilled at her love for reading. As the years went by, in the pre-teen and teenage years I was less and less thrilled. It was almost impossible to have a conversation with her because she was always in a book! It has helped her so much in her studies and in her career that she spent so much time reading. The amount of knowledge she carries around in her head is simply amazing, there’s hardly a topic that she doesn’t know something about.
Now I will share with you about my wonderful son. If any of you are parents of boys I’m sure you can share similar stories about your sons. I’m very aware that these reading experiences do not apply to all boys or all girls. My son at two was very different from my daughter. As I would sit and read to him he would look at the pictures, turn the pages when he’d seen enough, get to the last picture, and throw the book down. He was done. He didn’t seem to care about anything but the pictures. I would like to tell you that this changed as he got older, but I can’t. He told my husband and me that he didn’t need to learn to read or write because he was going to be a professional fisherman. He made up a very well thought out plan to catch a ride in the back of someone’s truck to the lake. He could eat the fish he caught and fish all day. He didn’t need any of this reading or writing.
But I didn’t give up. You might think this was funny, and it is now, but he was such a determined child. He did not want to learn. The teachers told me he might have learning disabilities, for their sakes I had him checked out. I knew better, I knew he was smart. When I would go over his colors with him he would get a grin on his face and deliberately tell me the wrong color. He was so hard headed and stubborn. I was not giving up! I tried working with him myself but he knew all the tricks to get around mom (or just torture me until I felt on the verge of collapse) so I made up my mind to get help. We didn’t have a lot of money at the time but I called around to everyone I knew, teachers, principals, and friends to find someone to help. A woman from our church was a reading teacher and said she’d tutor him for a lot less than most charged. Our son didn’t know her personally which was a good thing; he didn’t know what buttons to push. She was a wonderful teacher, a very kind person, but there was no nonsense during tutoring. She came for over a year a couple times a week and made him learn. I was so thankful.
As he got older he was still fighting it, they would give the standardized tests and he’d score low so they would put him in an extra help reading class with the slower children. He would do all the work and show them that he was not supposed to be there. They always asked me why he was in there. I told them it was because he was stubborn and hard headed, not slow. The event that finally changed my son came when he went into high school and ended up in the extra help reading class. He finally decided to do something about it out of sheer embarrassment; I’m guessing there were girls involved. In that particular class they would send them once a week to a reading specialist, one on one. She gave them tests to check on their reading level. He looked at the lady, asked if he could take all the tests at once. He said he made a deal with her, If he could get a grade of 100 on each test would he please not have to come back to see her and could he transfer out of that class. He said she had a smirk on her face as she agreed, like it was never going to happen. He did all the tests, got a grade of 100 on each. He told me she didn’t know what to say. She didn’t expect him to do it and then didn’t know what to do at that point. She made good on her promise, he was being transferred to the regular English class. His classroom reading teacher got the paperwork for transferring him, called me up and wondered what I had done to get him out. I told her the story, that it was all him. She said she knew he was bright all along. I asked him if he’d learned his lesson about fooling around now. He shrugged and grinned. That’s my boy.
Today he’s in college, reads well, and with understanding. He thanks me for not giving up and says he doesn’t even know why he fought so hard to learn. He sees now what a wonderful gift it is to be able to read. He sees how it flows over into every aspect of your life. Now he’s able to do whatever he wants, even if that leads to being a professional fisherman!
Whatever you choose to do in life reading is so important. Reading is magical, not only for those who love to read for the purpose of going on adventures of the imagination, traveling to other lands, or becoming someone else for awhile. It’s also magical for those whose primary use is not reading for pleasure, but still it can take them to places they could have never gone in their lives and careers.
Heather Smith is an ex-nanny and editor at Nanny.net. Passionate about thought, leadership, and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to becoming a nanny by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be reached at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com. Heather can also be found on Twitter.
Aug 20, 2012
The Magic of Reading, Guest Post by Former Nanny Heather Smith
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