Simply knowing how to read is not enough. A love for reading is crucial in helping a child become an independent learner.
I read to my daughter since she was born. She learned to read with beginning books that we read daily. As she learned more words, I read less and she read more. When she could read alone, I required her to read out loud every day while I buzzed around the house, cooking or cleaning or talking on the phone. By the end of third grade, she knew how to read, but I still had to force her to read every day for thirty minutes.
I was concerned. I loved to read since I was five-years-old. Sitting on the living room couch with a stack of books, I read out loud and slowly sounded out each word. For hours, I would sputter out story after story. My brother would yell at me to stop, but I would continue until I had read every book.
As a teacher, I knew what lay ahead for my daughter if I did not show her the joy of written words. In kindergarten through third grade, she had been learning to read. In the fourth grade and beyond, she would be expected to learn from what she read. The reading passages in fourth grade textbooks were twice as long compared to third grade. Each grade to follow would require her to read more complicated stories and books about science and technology subjects.
I devised a plan to lead her into the enjoyment of reading. I obtained a list of books for her age group at the local library. Realizing I needed to read with her more, I checked out two copies of James and the Giant Peach and two other award-winning books. We planned the number of pages to read each day in order to finish the book in a week.
The first day of summer break we headed to a coffee shop, found a place outside with chairs, tables, and tents so that we could lay back in the shade and drink iced tea as we fell into the world of James.
I read first, being sure to use silly voices for each character. During her turn to read, I helped her with difficult words, quickly and without fussing. We stopped periodically when I thought she needed to discuss. We even acted out a few scenes.
Everyday we repeated this ritual: walk to the coffee shop and read for thirty minutes taking turns. Before long, my daughter was reading ahead without me. We continued to read together out loud, until she just wanted to read silently by herself. She finished Charlotte's Web in two days, then the next book in a few days. She started choosing thicker books, completing all seven of the Harry Potter books in the fourth and fifth grades. She sped through the four Twilight books during sixth grade.
Now she more than loves reading, she may be addicted to it. She is not allowed to keep a book in her bedroom at night because I fear that she will read all night, just as I did when I was a little girl.
Even though she loves to read now, I know my job is not done. I still listen to her read at least a couple times per week. I find that she still needs support sounding out certain long words, which she tends to skip over while reading silently.
Her high reading ability helps her to excel in school. The love of reading opens the door to self-learning. Taking ownership of knowledge is essential to being successful in school, in college, and in life.
Taiesha Flenaugh can be reached at