Growing up, I couldn’t have cared less about reading. Sure, I was briefly entertained by that one cat who wore that silly hat, but who was he and why did he like green eggs and ham? Besides, weren’t green eggs rotten??? I never took the time to get the answers to those potentially life-altering questions because something else more immediately gratifying was always available. I had two sisters and three brothers in the house with me, cousins down the street, friends around the corner, uncles and aunts a landline phone call away (There were no smart phone distractions when I was younger!). If I wasn’t enjoying my free time with any of them, I was out riding a bike or playing basketball or throwing rocks at birds. Definitely not reading.
Thankfully, my father, William Curry, made me repeat the first grade because, I’ll be honest, I struggled with reading. I give him a lot a crap about doing that, but I learned to respect an education (and him). I have a bachelors degree now, I read every day, and I stress the importance of both reading and an education to my children. I like to joke that if I end up raising criminals, then they’re going to at least be intelligent criminals. Truth be told, they’re already much more advanced than I was at their age.
You see, where I was struggling to read in the first grade, they were both reading chapter books in kindergarten. More importantly, they were reading them because they wanted to, not because I forced them. Sure, I redirected them from TV and video games, but there’s always a bit of well-intentioned manipulation in parenting. Not only do their mother and I both read to them nightly, but I allow them to see me reading in my spare time and then share my thoughts of that book with them afterward. It’s a seemingly small step, but talking about the reading adventures I’ve gone on sparks their curiosity. They begin to wonder what adventures, what magic, is out there awaiting them as well?
But that’s not all. I reward my children with enthusiastic praise and the promise of ever more books once they finish their current ones. Are my strategies working? I’d say so. Heck, just this morning my son begged me to take his one-hundred and eighty paged book on the school bus to read. He’s six! I admit, I caved in pretty easily. That stuff makes me one proud daddy.
I’m not saying this solely to brag about my own children. I’m sure there are kids out there who were reading before kindergarten, hopefully yours are among those early adopters. But if not, it’s never to late to begin developing the importance of reading in our children. Sure, hope is important, but it’s not enough. We can’t just ideally sit by hoping our kids develop the necessary strengths despite our lack of emphasis on them. When I’m writing my children’s books, I invite my kids into the process, let them get a behind the scenes glimpse while strengthening our bond in the meantime. Find what works for you. But find something. As loving parents, we need to take a hands on approach. After all, why would anyone, let alone us, deliberately sabotage their child’s life?