When I was in elementary school, I struggled to read.
I remember one particularly embarrassing episode when I was required to make a oral book report in third grade. I chose Winnie-The-Pooh, thinking it would be relatively easy to get through.
Whether due to lack of discipline, lack of focus, or lack of confidence, I only managed to struggle through one chapter. I still remember the look on my teacher’s face and the question when I finished my much truncated report: “Is that all?” Yes, I had to admit, head hung low, that was all.
Then there was the F in English I got in seventh grade. That called for a family meeting, with me at the center. I couldn’t figure out then and I still don’t know how that happened. I thought I was doing fine. I didn’t remember getting low scores in tests or failing to turn in papers. But there it was. I had flunked.
Yet one year later, in the summer before high school. I thought it would be a good goal to read Moby-Dick. And I did.
What changed? What transformed me into not just a good English student but someone who loved to read and loved to write?
I am sure part of it was just taking time for my brain to mature. Part of it might have been simply needing years of practice till the disciplines of study finally became second nature.
One important factor, though, that I still remember is the influence of my older brother and sister. I always saw them reading. They had books on their shelves and belonged to a book club. Seeing those arrive in the mail every so often was always exciting. Since I wanted to be as smart as they were, I thought I needed to read.
Do you want your younger siblings, your children, your grandchildren to become readers? By all means, read to them. But let them catch you reading too.