A message to parents from the “Back to School Fairy Godmother”

The beginning of a new school year can feel daunting for parents—along with the excitement and anticipation for the new year comes the daunting reality of new schedules and responsibilities for children and their parents.

The juggling act required of parents can feel overwhelming. On top of that, along comes a survey by The Michigan Department of Education that says, more than budgets or teachers, parental expectations are key to a child’s academic achievement and social adjustment. How do parents turn their expectations for their children to become readers into realistic goals?

In today’s wired world, with video games, iPods, cell phones and countless other digital distractions, youngsters are plugged into everything but books. How can parents keep and or ignite a love of reading under the weight of digital distractions, homework, and an over abundance of scheduled activities.

The “simple” answer to meet this challenge is LOVE— love for a particular story. A book that is passed from child to child, and from generation to generation by word of mouth creates the love of story. Children will not become lifelong readers unless they find their “home-run” book, a book they cannot imagine not having known. Ingredients of a “home-run” book are stories that offer a strong and compelling plot, with characters a reader cares about. Stories needs to be relevant, they help children make sense of themselves and their world. Books are powerful—they not only entertain— but the ideas in a story creep into a reader’s heart and mind, affecting their lives and choices.

If I could become the “back to school fairy godmother” I would grant every adult the ability to hand every child the memorable books that will carry them into young adulthood. It takes years of pleasure reading to raise children who love to read and the journey begins with their first encounter (hopefully, of many) with a “home-run” book. Bottom line—if pleasure does not drive reading, children will not become the readers they deserve to be. This is not their fault, but it does become their lifelong burden.

Take it from the writer Richard Peck: “The day of the event celebrating my being awarded the Newbery Award coincided with my mother celebrating her ninety-fifth birthday as well it should, since she’d read to me before I could read for myself and sent me off to the first grade stuffed full of stories and the words that create them. Schools don’t build foundations; they build upon foundations.” And sixty-two years later, my mother took her bow.”

Ask yourself—who handed you the memorable books that turned you into a reader?  A reluctant reader is a reader that hasn’t met their “home-run” book.

Be the person that hands a child a book they will love, “make” a reader and be proud to take your bow.


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