There’s a voracious reader in all of us, I thought, but my youngest daughter was determined to prove me wrong.
I took her to the eye doctor for one reason: so he could tell my melodramatic third-grader there was no physical reason she couldn’t complete her reading homework. But when he asked her to wear 3D glasses and tell him which wing of the butterfly popped out, she came up empty every time.
Not only did she have zero depth perception, but she also had double vision.
Everything was double-stacked for her. He wrote a prescription while I remembered the fights — the complaints of headaches; her claiming to only be able to read if she covered one eye.
Oh, the mom guilt. We picked out frames and I bought her ice cream on the way home.
When we picked up her glasses a week later, she marveled at the leaves on the trees.
“They’re not fuzzy,” she said. “They have edges.”
I bought more ice cream.
The reading got easier for her, but she still wasn’t up to speed with her classmates nor was she in love with books.
I so wanted her to fall in love with books. As a kid, I always had a book I was working on.
My dad would kick me out of the house on a beautiful summer day, telling me to “go play outside!” So, I tucked my book under my arm and headed to my favorite climbing tree. I spent many summer days up a tree with a book in my hand. I wanted to see that spark in my daughter, too.
She liked animals, so we tried to find books with animal characters or books that somehow focused on animals. All the ones I knew were the classics like Where the Red Fern Grows and White Fang, but those were heavy books, and she wasn’t quite ready for those.
We went to the library. She would pick out books, take them home, read a few pages and declare she didn’t like it and then put it down. It frustrated me. “Just read the book!” is what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t will her to love reading.
I looked for something with smaller stories in it. I bought Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul. She didn’t like all of the stories, but she liked some of them. It felt like progress, and I clung to it.
I got every volume of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books that I could find. She could pick and choose which stories she wanted to read. I knew when she found one she liked because she told me all about it.
Over the summer she discovered the Vet Volunteers book series by Laurie Halse Anderson (written for fourth-grade level). The books revolve around a girl whose grandmother is a veterinarian. Together with the girl’s friends, they helped save many different animals. My daughter loved the series. I was relieved and excited for her when she read them all.
By middle school she was reading books from any shelf she wanted.
She picked up A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron. I bought it. She read the whole thing twice. Twice! She read her favorite parts again and again. Her copy was dog-eared, stained and thick from spills. It was a well-loved book.
From then on, she was rarely without a book in her hand and instead of figuring out how to get her to read, teachers asked her to please put her book away during class. It’s a good problem to have. She restored my belief that there is a voracious reader in all of us.
All it took for my daughter was corrected vision and the right book.
— Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a wife, mother of three kids, and the opinion editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Louisville Courier-Journal. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, followed through her YouTube channel and on Twitter: @WriterBonnie, or click here to learn more about her. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.