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.