I am an avid reader and more than anything I wanted each of my children to be avid readers. My first child was born while I was still working on my bachelors degree in elementary education. During that period of my life, my greatest question was how I could teach my child. I craved information. I read anything and everything I could find on the best way to raise my child. I think my greatest fear was that I would fail her and send her off into the world missing vital information.
One night as I was rocking her to sleep when she was just a few months old, an answer came to me. It wasn’t about teaching her everything. It was much simpler than that. It was about teaching her how to be a learner. I needed to teach her where to get the information that she needed. Of course, then the thought branched out to how to teach her to be read. I knew instantly that she needed to know how to read. If she didn’t learn how to read, she wouldn’t be able to get answers to her questions.
Sitting with my mother in her living room, I explained to her my desire, but I didn’t want to wait until my little girl went to school for her to learn to read. I wanted to give her a boost. I wanted her to know more. I wanted to capitalize on her curiosity immediately. Excitedly, my mom ran upstairs and brought down a book How To Teach Your Baby To Read. I had seen it on her shelf. I had helped her pack it to move it many times during our lives. She shared how she had used these simple methods with her children and knew that they would work.
I could hardly wait to get back home and dive into the book. I read it cover to cover in a day! Then, I went about implementing the practices in the book. It was so simple! Soon, I had an eight month old baby that could read about two dozen words. I was so excited about her learning growth that I brought her to Purdue University where I was getting my bachelors degree and had her demonstrate what she could do to my professors! She was a prodigy. There would never be anyone as smart or as intelligent as my baby girl! I knew it.
I also made sure to teach her to read by example. Each day, we read children’s books together. My finger followed along under the words as I read. I read out loud what I was reading for myself. I read quietly and let her see that I enjoyed reading, too. When she was too old for naps, we renamed ‘nap time’ to ‘quiet time’ and filled it with reading. Quiet time became my favorite time of the day when each child would pull out a pillow, blanket, book and sprawl across the family room furniture and floor. I loved listening to the laughter as they read a funny part or the day that a favorite character died and my son was devastated.
They each continue to read. They love to read. Sadly, I even cursed that they could read when my Amazon and any other bookstore trips became extremely expensive. (We use the library as well, but there as some times when you simply have to a new release -like when each of the Harry Potter books came out.) There are few greater joys to me than when my children share with me what they are learning or reading.
By Tracy Atkinson
Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners. She has published several titles, including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.