Can You Make Someone Fall in Love? by Emily Hill
Last week, I posted a picture of my three-year-old sitting in our dog’s bed reading a book. It was a precious little moment that I was lucky enough to capture. After I posted the picture, a friend and former colleague of mine suggested that I write about how I work to instill a love of reading in my children.
And it truly is something I “work” towards.
I am not a person to whom reading comes easily. Yes, I was a high school English teacher. Yes, I have a Masters degree in reading. Yes, this does sound crazy, but I am a struggling reader, and my passion for reading took a few decades to develop.
I grew up with parents who read and valued education. My mom is, and always has been, a voracious reader. I always had books in my house and saw her reading every night. Yet, I struggled.
I wanted to be a great reader. I was envious of all the kids in grade school who were reading book after book. They would fill their “Book It” chart with stickers and earn their Pizza Hut pizza, and I never once finished a book challenge or summer reading book.
I am a slow reader and never could keep up with my classmates or the reading schedule. It was discouraging and made me self-conscious.
As I grew up, I learned coping mechanisms to help me in English class. I could do well on quizzes and tests for books I had never read. I always had good intentions and would start the books, but I’d quickly fall behind and just give up.
It wasn’t until college when I had a professor assign a book to read each week: there was a quiz on Friday and absolutely no discussion before the quiz. WHAT??? After failing my first-ever reading quiz, I was finally forced to make it work. Instead of giving up on the books, I discovered audio books and other strategies to help me finish. It was like a whole new world was opened up to me.
As I finished each book, I felt like I had summated Everest!
I want my kids to love reading. I want them to read and read and read. There are quantitative benefits of reading: better vocabulary, greater grasp of grammar and rhetorical strategies, higher test scores on standardized exams. But even more, there are innumerable qualitative benefits like the pleasure of getting lost in a book and finding yourself transported to a new world.
This school year my oldest child has been extremely lucky to have a teacher who has a passion for reading. Her teacher’s passion has definitely sparked the same in my daughter, and she is already trying to read chapter books and wanting to push herself.
My two younger children are not yet in school, but I want them to learn to love books and be excited about books. In order to accomplish this, I try to fill our home with books – every room has books on hand so that they are always present and available. We also read a book every night before bed. This routine makes books a part of their everyday world and ensures that no matter what, they have engaged with a book that day.
I also take my kids to the library as frequently as possible and help them find books in which they are interested. This week my oldest had a specific book in mind and my younger two wanted books about hippos and books about construction: we found them all! And their smiles as they proudly carried their newly borrowed treasures to the car were like and early Christmas present to me.
I am never shy about my opinions on different books. In the process of discovering what you like, you are also going to discover what you don’t. It’s ok to dislike a book or an author or a genre. That doesn’t make all books bad or garbage, it just means that you have to keep looking and reading to find what you do like.
This is something I either missed or was never taught when I was younger. I always felt that if I didn’t like a book it wasn’t because of the subject or the author or the writing style, but rather because of me. It took me a long time and a lot of books before I realized that it is perfectly OK to say that you dislike a book, as long as you can back it up.
I want my kids to feel the joy a book can bring and to hold that feeling inside forever. The excitement and wonder that they feel when they look at books now will not be forgotten, and as they grow, so will the books that they choose.
In our house, we talk about reading. I think this is such an important part of cultivating a love of reading in children. Reading makes you smart. Reading can transport you to a new world. Reading introduces you to new friends. Reading can teach you lessons. I know these things, and I make sure that I regularly say them out loud to my children so that they will know them as well. Kids don’t know any of these things instinctively – they have to learn them. Just as they learn what a Shopkin is or how fun it is to ride a roller coaster.
Reading is something I love, but something I still work at. I am still a slow reader, and I don’t always finish my book club books each month, but at least there isn’t a quiz! I am not on anyone else’s timeline, and I’ll finish the ones I want to – some day.
Emily Hill is a blogger, reader, wife, mother and wine drinker. She is a former High School English teacher and reading specialist who has traded her hours in the classroom for hours driving her three children from one activity to another. You can read about Emily’s love of wine and other misadventures in motherhood on her blog: Please Send More Wine at www.pleasesendmorewine.com