Posts Tagged Family reading

The Miracle of Reading

Back in early 2003, I was the stay-at-home-mother of three young children – two boys and a little girl ages nine, six, and four respectfully. One area I focused on with them was reading, tons and tons of wordage and illustrations that I could use to teach and guide them.

Then the month of November arrived, and I gave birth to our fourth child, another boy – CJ. From an early age, this child ate books for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He was a story fanatic. Once he could crawl, he’d empty our bookshelves and examine each book with distinct precision. Each illustration fascinated him. Each word he learned to visually recognize made him howl or giggle. It was nothing for me to find him sitting atop a mound of books, one in his hand as he flipped through the pages.  He seemed a bit slow to verbalize, but that wasn’t a problem to him. He would find images of what he wanted or needed and waddle over to show me. He always found a way through his books to get his needs and wants met. But by around his twenty month old mark, I  noticed he didn’t make many verbal sounds and the ones he did didn’t sound right.

I took him to our pediatrician. After a round of physical action tests it was determined that CJ was born with Apraxia of Speech – a neurological disorder where no pathways from the brain to the mouth muscles exist. Simply put, he was likened to a stroke victim whose brain could no longer send messages to his/her mouth to speak.

At twenty-two months old, CJ began speech therapy. One hour three times a week for three straight years. (Therapy continued until he was in third grade.) You might be thinking that was a lot for such a little guy. It was. But he was absolutely resilient. Why? Because his therapist used letters and words that he recognized from his numerous hours of story hunting through books. Each and every time we went to speech therapy, his therapist and I could see him hunger for more and more single sounds and consonant blends. Remember his way of pointing at images in his books to get what he wanted? Well, what I didn’t know was that this is an actual form of therapy given to young kids until they can verbalize on their own. The little bugger had figured this out all by himself.

I don’t know if there are studies out there to verify my findings. But from our family’s personal experience, I will tell you that I attribute CJ’s joy in therapy to his lust for reading. And that’s because he was introduced to books almost from birth. He’s proof that, from our youngest age, we long to communicate our thoughts and emotions to others and we hunger for knowledge to be fed to us.

And if you’re wondering how CJ is now, he’s a well-spoken thirteen-year-old eighth grader, who is at the top of his class academically and participates in athletics and activities with no verbal issues. To this I bow humbly to the books he’s so loved and to the act of reading.

Reading truly is a miracle. It helped CJ find his voice because every child deserves a voice.

An Unfortunate Event

If you like stories about people who enjoy popular series of books, this is a story for you. If you like stories about families bonding over books, you might read on. If you are a parent who appreciates the value of reading and a proud parent of readers, you may enjoy this.

But, if you are a meticulous keeper of neatly shelved and ordered books which are kept with the utmost of care and handling, you may want to stop now. If you cringe when someone opens one of your books for fear they may dog ear a page, please go dust off the Aa-Hi titles on your bookshelf. This story is not for you.

It all began at a book fair years ago when the three, young Hays children selected a paperback book entitled, THE BAD BEGINNING. The book is read, thoroughly enjoyed and soon book two in the series is ordered. Well, some of you may guess where this is going. The next thing the dad knows is that we own A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1 thru Book 8.

Fast forward to early January 2017. The 20-something, college-graduate, working-professional, Hays kids are at the house for a family dinner. The kids and their significant others are talking about their anticipation for the new Netflix A Series of Unfortunate Events series. (Anticipation here meaning, waiting with great excitement and enthusiasm.) The talk turns from the TV series to the book series.

It is found out, with great surprise, that only one of the five young adults read the entire series—my son-in-law. Out of the old adults (me and my teacher wife), I lead the elderly set with a reading through THE AUSTERE ACADEMY, Book 5. After many joyful minutes of A Series of Unfortunate Events book talk, my eldest daughter, who is a second-grade teacher, says she wants to read all the books again before she watches the series.

Girl Twin says she recently reorganized her room and thinks she remembers them being on her bookshelf. She checks and returns with a stack of books. Books 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8. No THE REPTILE ROOM or THE ERSATZ ELEVATOR!

A mild panic ensues. Where are Book 2 and 6???!!!

A search of all the bookshelves in the house reveals nothing. The two volumes, including my favorite, THE REPTILE ROOM, are gone. Most of the immediate blame goes on Boy Twin, but after a search of his books, he is cleared. Eventually, we decide they could be anywhere. The most likely scenario is determined to be those two books probably disappeared when they were part of my wife’s middle school or 3rd-grade classrooms free-range-reading book shelves.

An unfortunate event, indeed.

Soon, we ameliorate (a word meaning to make better) the lost book situation by returning to a discussion of our favorite parts of the Baudelaire orphans’ plight and end a pleasant evening talking books and eating dinner with the family.

Lessons learned from my Unfortunate Event evening…

  1. You never outgrow your favorite books. They stay embedded in your heart and soul forever. Nothing can change that.
  2. There are books for everyone. A nonreader is a reader who just hasn’t found his niche yet. i.e. My son-in-law, who is the admitted nonreader of the whole bunch is the only one of the whole bunch who read the entire 13-book A Series of Unfortunate Events series.
  3. Sometimes books get lost and disappear for a reason. There are kids out there without access to books besides what they find in the library or on a teacher’s open reading shelf or a free book exchange. Sometimes a borrowed book becomes so special and important, it finds a new owner. Oh yeah, then there’s always the overzealous mother who cleans out your room (book and baseball card collection included!) the minute you move off to college.
  4. The Netflix adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events is very good. As good as the books but in a different way. Isn’t that the way book adaptations should be?

Author’s UpdateI wish I could update you with happy news of Book 2, THE REPTILE ROOM and Book 6, THE ERSATZ ELEVATOR being found, but, alas, they are still missing. In more upbeat news, Book 9, THE CARNIVOROUS CARNIVAL, turned up this week in a search and nobody remembers buying it.