I learned to read early. I was two when I started recognizing words. However, several moves and some horrible school systems resulted in me hating to read for several years. My grandmother sent me a lot of books for my tenth birthday and out of complete boredom I decided to try reading one. That one book hooked me and my family has never been able to get my nose out of a book for any length of time.
Shortly after re-developing my love of reading, I started going to my brother’s first grade class during my recess. I would pull students out of class, especially my brother Drew, for a few minutes and have him or her read books to me. At the age of ten I found I enjoyed helping people learn how to read more than running around outside. So I took advantage of the opportunity, every chance I had.
We moved several more times and my interests went elsewhere for a while. However my enjoyment of helping people read never stopped. I gave several people books I absolutely loved, despite knowing some of them hated reading. If they gave the book a chance, they usually started reading regularly. As I grew older, I seemed to become increasingly skilled at identifying ‘trigger’ books for people.
I remember going to the bookstore, one of my favorite pastimes. My youngest brother, Cory, was with me, despite the fact you could barely get him to read anything. He kind of wandered around, waiting for me to be done. But, following some instinct, I went to the middle-grade books instead of my usual YA or even Adult Romance section. There I found a book that, though I wouldn’t normally read, I thought Cory might enjoy.
With that thought I made a deal with Cory. We’d each pay half for the book, about two dollars each, and share the book. I’m not sure if I’d made Cory curious about the book enough for him to agree or if he simply thought he was helping me feed my addiction. I may never know, but he agreed.
I read the book quickly that night then gave it to Cory to read. I left for school. Apparently I’d found his trigger book. The next thing I heard he was reading other books, some were three or four hundred pages long. He still reads regularly and our tastes have often crossed paths. My mother jokingly complains that she has to spend money on books for Cory now. It used to be just her and me.
Katelynn was born a few months before my eighteenth birthday. Thanks to her mother’s recreational activities while she was pregnant, my half-sister was born with disabilities. She’s now in second grade and in special-ed. After living with me and her father for a year, I’ve been told I’ve corrupted her.
When she first arrived in Idaho, her reading level was at a level zero, not even a Kindergarten level. The first day she arrived, I took her to the library and got her her own library card. I’ve never known anyone to be so excited over having a library card. She really didn’t use the card however, until school started up for her.
The school, her father and I have worked with her over the last year. Within three months of school starting, she was reading at a level of someone who’d been learning to read for nine months. She checks out books from the library whenever she can, not just movies.
I often find that when Katelynn sees me reading, she’ll pull out her own books and read them aloud. The longest she’s done this for was an hour. She insisted on having her own journal after seeing me write with so much frequency. She does spend some time writing, but she’s still challenged so doesn’t write as much as I think she will once she gets more comfortable with the concept.
With her I don’t imagine I’ll need to find a trigger book. But I don’t think she’d have made as much progress in school if it weren’t for me spending time breaking words down into simple letters, or using tricks that helped me when I was learning to read. Sometimes all she needed was to see the word upside down to figure out what a certain one was. Sometimes she needs a more complicated trick to help her figure it out. And I enjoy seeing her pride when she does recognize or figure out what a word is.
I still love helping people with words. However, outside of working with Katelynn, I don’t really have the opportunity any more. The majority of my friends are avid readers now. Drew, my oldest younger brother, does not have an interest in reading or getting into the habit and his daughter, as cute and sharp as she is, lives 2,000 miles away and is a little young to focus on teaching her how to read yet. But the moment she’s old enough and Daddy’s back is turned, I plan on corrupting my only niece with the love of words like I have so many others.