The Gift of Reading

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I have a mantra right now… control what you can control.

At this time, the list of things in our control is not a long list. There is one thing that I can control within my home that will brighten the future for my family, open our minds, create memories, and help bring some peace of mind. It is instilling the love of reading in our home. Reading was so incredibly challenging for me as a child, however, I loved it, I coveted reading and books. It was all because of my parents instilling the love of reading within our home. They loved reading, they read to me, to my siblings. My parents gifted us with the love of reading before we could even read.

When I write sub plans I always write, “When in doubt, read! We love reading. Reading brings a calming effect to our class.” You may say, but not everyone loves to read. That is true. But when reading is presented as a gift, not a chore then anyone can fall in love with reading. Kate DiCamillo, a children’s author, says, “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, or a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” Imagine in times of stress how simply sitting down with your family and reading together could have a calming effect. Try it. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Mom loved to read and she loved reading to learn. When seeking my mom’s help, I would find her lying on our couch munching on a carrot with a giant book in her hands.

“Mom?”

“Let me finish my paragraph… Yes?”

I would ask her for something or tell her I was bored. She would put her book down and look up at me with a smile, “Okay Honey, well, I am in a great part of my book and I have only a hundred pages to go! So how about I come to find you when I’m done?”

With that, I was left to think nothing but, “Oh my goodness, what amazing things are in that book!?!” I would mimic her, pretending to read until I could. To this day I covet reading books she has read, to read the notes she wrote in the margin. To know what amazing things, the aha the author had gifted her. It was clear my mom loved to read and it spilled over on to me, a child with a reading disability. Through offering and modeling, she made me fall in love with reading too.

Recent research shows that reading for enjoyment greatly impacts academic success. This makes perfect sense! Reading is one of the best ways to access information. Reading models strong, creative written communication and builds vocabulary. Reading is looking at pictures in books. Reading is retelling a book by looking at pictures. Reading is listening to a book read aloud. Reading is taking turns reading a book. Reading is learning. Reading is sparking the imagination. Falling in love with reading allows children to have a lifetime of learning within their grasp and brighten their future with possibilities and passions.

Right now, we are not able to travel, to explore beyond our borders. However, we can open a book and be awakened to new worlds. Journey to Middle Earth, travel back in time, enroll in Hogwarts with your family. Pop popcorn, cuddle up on the couch for a chapter or two. Each night journey together to far off lands! While opening that front cover your minds are opened to new places. Create memories together. Create wonder. Root reading within your family culture.

Mom read to us every night. She chose the books she loved! She chose longer books, ones that my siblings and I would beg for her to keep reading. She chose books that made us excited for bedtime the next night simply so we could hear what happened next. Mom also read to our family as we ventured in our van on road trips. My older sisters would slowly take off their headphones joining in on the literary adventure. Those stories were something we all shared and still talk about today. Reading catapulted our family culture even further with cherished memories of learning and venturing together.

Even if your child is not the one reading the words on the page, if they are snuggled up next to you visualizing the story in their mind, building vocabulary, and hearing the expression and soothing hum of in your voice, they are falling in love with reading.

So, instead of saying to your child, “Go read a book,” say, “Come sit with me. I’d love to read with you.” Or, “I’m going to read. You’re welcome to join me!” Or, “I’m in such a great part of my book. I’ve got to keep reading. How’s your book?” Another way to offer reading as a gift is to give books as gifts in a thoughtful, meaningful way.

Each Christmas Mom and Dad would gift me a book. A book was chosen by both my parents to fuel my curiosity, my imagination and to delight me. Haven’t you read The Big Hungry Bear and the Red Ripe Strawberry, or Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, or Wait Until Next Year, or The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, or Bel Canto? I have. I have because I was given these gifts, these stories that supported me throughout my life’s journey. These books, given to me by my parents, each with a thoughtful note written to me in the front cover, the best part of the book, that made it gold.

Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Understanding the concept that events, days, life all are like stories, they too have a beginning, middle and an end. This understanding can be soothing to children, especially at challenging times. At this point, we cannot see the end of the story we are living right now. However, we know the end will come, as it does in all stories. And maybe it does not only bring peace to our children’s minds, but to our minds as well.

I know many of your families already live this beautiful habit. If so, tell us about it. If not, it is never too late to begin. Don’t give up… it takes time for new habits to form. Luckily, right now, time is something we have on our side. Instill the love of reading within your home to brighten the future for your family, open your minds to new worlds, create memories, and help bring some peace of mind during this uncertain time.

Jessica Hertz
1H Homeroom Teacher

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