Friday, May 8, 2009

Every Mom Is a Superwoman


Do you remember when you learned to read?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as we approach this Mother’s Day. I was with family recently, and we were all talking about what, if any, memories we each had of our first days of reading. Few of us had any memory of the actual learning process. My brother-in-law remembered a day when the teacher announced, “Today we’re going to learn to read.” He was thrilled! He thought for sure there was a magic solution—a secret he was finally worthy of learning, and that by the end of the day, he, too, would be a reader! But alas, it was a process; there was no quick answer. My sister could remember “playing school” with our older sisters and learning to read. Everyone seemed to have a memory of that first big chapter book, or the book that really opened up their eyes to the power of reading. It was clear from our discussion that, in our family, reading was very important.

The longer we discussed our memories of learning to read, the more I realized I look back on those years and see my mother as a sort of Superwoman.

I’m the youngest of nine children, and needless to say, my mother was busy. Not only did she run the household and prepare every single meal from scratch, every single night for 11 people (even baking her own bread and sewing half our wardrobes), but there was also track practice, 4-H club, piano lessons, talent shows, and who knows what else. In addition to raising our family, she also had a full-time job, earned her master’s in math education, learned to fly a plane, ran a nonprofit organization, all while raising her nine kids. But at the time, she was just my mother, and my mother was busy.

I vividly remember one day, I was sitting on the floor in our living room playing with my toys—probably the spring before I started kindergarten—when my mother walked into the room and asked me to sit with her on the couch. She was holding what I deemed a worn-out and ancient-looking yellow and green book called Dick and Jane. She told me it was the book she had used to learn to read when she was a little girl, and I remember her saying, “I think you’re ready to read now, too.” I knew, even at the time, that this was an important moment. For my mother to stop everything she was doing to sit on the couch with me and teach me to read was a big deal—and it stuck. Reading is, and always has been, an incredibly important part of my life.

So as we approach this Mother’s Day, think about the time you spend with your child and the memories you’re creating for her. We’re all so busy—and every moment of the day is probably already scheduled and planned weeks in advance. But if you can take 15 minutes a day, even just a few times a week, to spend with your child and show her that you value and recognize the importance of reading, you’ll be providing her with a gift that lasts a lifetime.

And who knows, she may even look back one day and call you Superwoman.

Happy Mother’s Day to every Superwoman out there!

13 comments:

Justin Porter said...

Very insightful! I really enjoyed reading this article.

Elizabeth said...

When I think about first learning to read, I to hark back to the worn out Dick and Jane that passed through my older brothers and sister. But what I remember most vividly before letters became words, then sentences that emanated from my mouth, was being read to. My father read me the Black Stallion series, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, and there was Dr Seuss (one of my favorites is still If I Ran the Circus).
I think about how valuable that experience was, and how luck I was to have it, especially since I now teach children whose parents do not have the resources or time to be able to read to them. Reading is a privilege that all children should have. It begins with being read to, by our fathers, mothers and any of the other superheros that enter our lives.

MamaClaire said...

I don't remember learning to read, but I do remember all my mother's favorite books to read aloud. As a toddler she read "I am a Bunny" about a million times...and as a child she read Charlotte's Web, Anne of Green Gables, Ramona Quimby...no wonder I still love to read!

The most joyful moments of my day are when my baby (12 mo) stops playing with toys, grabs a book and crawls over to me. She tumbles into my lap and starts kicking with excitement when I begin reading aloud to her. None of our other activities involve so much laughing and snuggling. I hope she continues to fall into my lap for many years of reading to come!

carrie-k said...

This is a great and lovely article, TJ. I remember in grade school checking a book out of the library for the first time. I was a biography on Thomas Jefferson, and I just loved it. I've been hooked on reading every since.

Rault said...

What a nice post! Definitely makes me think of being tiny and discovering reading for the first time.

laurel said...

Inspirational! If your mom could do it, in addition to everything else (working full-time? flying a plane?), then I can certainly find the time to devote to things I deem important.

Thanks for sharing this, tj. I'm going to call my Superwoman of a mother!

Brian said...

The article was well done. It brought back fond memories of my mother and father and the little moments I shared with them when I was young. It is so important for parents to spend time with their kids. My first reading experience was Green Eggs and Ham.

Ben said...

Wow, this is really moving, TJ. Nicely done!

Anonymous said...

It's so much fun to think about learning to read! I remember how hard it seemed to learn to read long words, until someone pointed out that I could break them in to many smaller words, such as "re-mem-ber" or "mac-a-ro-ni." This made all words and all books seem within reach.

Chrissy said...

I remember reading Anne of Green Gables and how I could smell the honeysuckle and having to squint at the brightness of the sun. I love thinking about those days and how simple it was to be a child. I hope my daughter feels that way too! That was a great article. Thanks for recreating some valuable memories.

Mary Trochlil Larsen said...

I don't remember the moment of learning to read - but I do remember great letter books with scratch and sniff stickers inside... and then in first grade on the first day of school one of the boys in class new how to read the word "grandmother." And THAT was impressive. Between that word and those scratch and sniff stickers - I was hooked! Happy Mother's Day SuperMom!!

Lee-n-Doug said...

Before I knew how, I would "read" aloud to my mother from books with pictures, (or novels without) and make up stories. Then, when she actually taught me to read...it was like magic...the pretending became real and reading became like unlocking a secret code! My mother was teacher and I remember wanting to be such a good reader to impress her. But if I ever got frustrated (my first big vocabulary word), she always knew how to have fun. She'd put me in front of her typewriter and just let me plug away randomly, typing all sorts of nonsense. Then, my mother, the TEACHER, would try to read it out loud to me! Making all sorts of crazy sounds and silly inflections, she often left us both in stitches and tears from laughing so hard. I thank my supermom for teaching me the superpower of reading and ALL the different ways it can be fun! - Thanks for reminding me TJ! - lee

kristenandtamsin said...

Your mom is really amazing and inspirational! Thanks for sharing that story.

I have always been the family bookworm; my mom said I learned to read when I was two, and I have childhood memories of sitting outside on a spring day under my favorite tree reading, staying up late at night with my light turned down as low as possible to sneak in one more chapter, and taking a book along to every Baltimore Orioles game my family went to see.

My daughter has taken to reading at a more gradual pace, but she's always loved being read to, so I have never been too worried about it. She's just finishing up first grade, and her reading has really taken off! It's such a joy to see her picking up a book on her own and reading every chance that she gets now.

Hooray for reading! And hooray for parents who instill a love of books in their children.