Teachers often lament how difficult it is to get their students to read. I remember when my children were in elementary school, one of their homework assignments was to read for 20 minutes every evening, and then get their reading log signed by a parent. It was a way to get children to read, since so many wouldn’t do so on their own.
My kids are different, however – and it’s hereditary.
When I was young, we lived in what we called “the circle”, because it was a dead end road that looped around. It was also an out of the way spot, so there were never many cars. It was rare for anyone who didn’t live in the small neighborhood to drive through. Also, I was young, so I did whatever came to mind. I liked to ride my bicycle, but I also liked to read. So, I came up with the idea one day to read while riding my bicycle around the circle. It wasn’t as difficult as you’d imagine. I was able to see the road in my peripheral vision, so I didn’t drift off to the side. I realized later what a bad idea it was, and how lucky I was that a car never came along and surprised me!
Another example of my voracious appetite for reading was when I was in fourth grade. At the end of the school year, we were all helping the teacher pack everything up because she had to switch rooms over the summer. Well, everyone else was packing. I had started to pack a box, but got distracted. My teacher found me sitting on the floor in the back of the classroom, reading a book instead of packing. When my teacher found me, I thought I was going to get disciplined, but she was actually very happy to see me reading. I was relieved and pleasantly surprised that she commended me instead.
Back to my children. They have all always loved to read. I’ve actually had the opposite problem with them than others have with many other children – mine read too much. I had a problem trying to keep them from reading when they should be doing something else. I would mention it during parent teacher conferences, but the teachers would always say it was a good thing. It IS possible to over-do anything, though. As far as I know, none of my children have ever read while riding a bike, but I have caught them reading when they were supposed to be sleeping or getting ready for school, for example. One of them was once reading while a friend was visiting (one she hadn’t seen for quite some time). I’ve had to kind of peel books off of another’s cheeks when checking on my children as they slept in the middle of the night because he’d literally fall asleep on whatever book he was reading. At least one of them has been caught reading a book instead of paying attention in class. I found out sometimes they didn’t get caught while reading during class lectures, too!
I remember the first time I was asked to sign a reading log. I knew it wasn’t going to be a problem to get my oldest to read for 20 minutes per night, but I didn’t anticipate the problem we did encounter. I noticed that she would repeatedly ask me how long she had been reading, and I quickly figured out that she thought she was only supposed to read for exactly 20 minutes and then put the book down, not for 20 minutes or more. She was taking the teacher literally (as very young children often do) when the teacher said “read for 20 minutes”. As soon as I realized that, I explained it her, and told her not to worry – I would just let her teacher know that she always read far beyond the required minimum. I knew it wasn’t a good idea for this lover of reading to change her focus from the printed word to the clock! She went back to reading for 20 minutes – or more – every day right after that. The reading log was a great idea in most cases, just not for my children.
One day, my daughter’s class had an assembly at school. The class went, but my daughter did not. When they got back to the classroom after the assembly, they found her still under a table, reading a book! It might sound strange to many, but she actually had to be ‘grounded’ from her books once or twice. She wouldn’t get ready for school or go to sleep because of reading. We actually had to take her bookcase out of her room for a while!
I’m happy to say that although my children still read, they’ve learned how to do it without it interfering with their lives. I am happy I took the time to read to my kids before they were old enough to read to themselves, others read to them, and that they often saw people reading around them. Storybooks were always part of their bedtime ritual when they were small, and they grew up with reading as a normal part of their lives which I feel made a difference for them. They’ve learned so much by reading, and most of all have grown up loving to read!