There are innumerable ways in which I imagine getting it all wrong with my children. I yell too much. I am too sarcastic. I am grumpy. I am inconsistent in my discipline (with myself and them). I am difficult to please. Many nights I lay awake in bed mentally creating all the ways I will inevitably fail them. I have, what I affectionately refer to as, “The Therapy Fund.” It is the imaginary vault I add pretend money to every time I do something that I KNOW will come back up with their therapist 15 years from now. Their very real future therapy is already very imaginarily funded and they are 10 years old and below. Clearly, I’ve got this parenting thing down.
Never in my wildest late night creations did I imagine that one of those parental failings would be in regard to reading. That simply is not possible. I read, write, and dream books. And children’s books in particular. I know exactly what to do to instill a lifelong love of reading in children. I know exactly how to spur on the most reluctant reader to be a voracious reader. I know exactly which books to hand a child I have talked to inspiring him or her to find joy in the written word.
In theory, it turns out.
Because the hard, honest truth is that my very own second born hated reading. I read out loud to her. I got books from the library for her. I bought books for her. I tried it all, repeatedly. But still she would only read for homework points, never for joy. I told myself it was just a phase. But it was a phase I could not make any sense of.
Then one day a friend gave me this quote (knowing nothing of my predicament):
“There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books.” – James Patterson
As I was reading it, my oldest daughter said, “Oh, that’s just like my sister.” Wait, what?! How?! She’s not reading the wrong books. She’s reading exactly the right books, the books I give her. They are excellent.
Except, and this sentence took me weeks to admit, she does not like them.
She likes fairies and princesses and fancy dresses. And I have actively steered her away from Fancy Nancy, Cinderella, and Rainbow Fairies. I know it goes against every teach-your-child-to-love-reading theory available, but there it is. I do not always practice what I preach.
And so I put my pride aside and let her decide.
She started coming home with books from the Disney Fairy Collection. I put on my best smile-through-the-pain look. But then she started going to her room to read; then reading to her siblings *out loud;* then getting her homework done faster so that she could read. She was falling in love with reading before my very eyes.
I found myself checking out every Disney Fairy book I could find, putting them on hold from other libraries, and scouring the digital collections to see if any extra ones could be found on the Kindle, all to see that look of joy on her face. Over a book! I found myself discussing fairies and their talents, reading oh-you-have-to-read-this pages, and actively listening to long-winded recaps of her favorite parts, all to hear the excitement in her voice. Over a book!
With the spark lit by fairies, she fans her literary fire with all different kinds of books now, all of her own choosing. And then this week, she reached for a set of books I have been gently encouraging (ahem) her to read for a long time. She took The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe off the shelf!
Yesterday at Disneyland, she looked at me and said, “I wish I had brought my book!”