I came across a quote this week that really stood out to me. Often times, teachers will have parents ask them, “What is the one thing I can do with my child that will make the biggest impact?” As a parent, I have asked this question myself, in order to help my children. Time is always a factor, and so I often narrow it down to one thing–what is the one thing I can do?
The answer I always receive is the one I always give as well: read with your child.
Even if it’s 10 minutes, or 5, or they want to read to you, having support in reading is one of the most important factors in how well a child will read. I’m reminded of this as I received a book in the mail this week, Leading for Literacy. This book was just published, and is a guide for administrators about how to build a culture of literacy within a school, and steps to using the Reading Apprenticeship training that I’ve been attending, to improve reading instruction.
They selected one of my writing passages to include in their book! The passage was part of a Personal Reading History, where we were asked to reflect on the factors that made us readers. For me, it was simple: my mom. I grew up on a dairy farm, and we didn’t have lots of money, but there was one thing I always had, thanks to her: books. Any time I think about us growing up, she was always reading when she could! When my dad was watching sports games on tv, she was reading on the couch. When we went in the car as a family, my mom was reading in the passenger seat. And I became a reader because I wanted to be like her. I could see that this was something that she really enjoyed, and so I grew up enjoying it too. She read to me all the time when I was young, and so did my grama (this grama always spelled it like this, so I do too, but only for her).
I quickly became the kid that would beg to go to the Salvation Army or Kmart on weekends to pick up new books, because I had read all I had earlier that week. When I worked for my grandparents, I spent my money on books (until I was ready to save for a car). During the sports games on tv, I had my chair that I was sitting in, reading.
I was reminded of all of this, not only because of receiving the book, but because I heard that this year, Little House on the Prairie turns 150 (which is not accurate, by the way–it’s in its 80s), and that was one of the earliest series I remember falling in love with. I remember Little House in the Big Woods and grew up with Laura and her family. And now, I’m reading this series with my daughter. It’s funny how that happens.
So now, I’m back to the quote that I mentioned in the beginning. It comes from Mem Fox, who is an Australian children’s author and educator. She says this, “When I say to a parent, ‘read to a child’, I don’t want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate.”
Absolutely! Even as a teacher and principal, I find myself sometimes feeling like I just can’t when one of my children asks me to read with them; after all, there’s always dishes and laundry, right? But if I don’t make time for it, they may not either, because my actions have told them it’s not a big deal. As a parent, I need to remember this quote myself and be the chocolate, because it’s that important.
And maybe if I remember, we can have some chocolate as a snack, while we read together.
Concord Academy Boyne