Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when the rising generation knows how to read. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children and/or grandchildren is to teach them to read well and enjoy it. I learned to read in school, but I learned to enjoy reading by seeing my mother sit down with a good book at the end of long, hard days on the farm. I followed my mother’s example and taught my own children to enjoy reading, and now my children are teaching their children the value of reading for pleasure. Several of them have gotten in trouble with their teachers because they read instead of listening. One of my greatest joys is to see my grandchildren engrossed in good books.
This love for reading was passed down from my mother. I can still see her sitting on the door of the oven to our old coal and wood stove reading a book. She particularly enjoyed western novels, but she read many other writings. She showed by her example that reading was a good thing in her life. When I started school in the first grade, I was more than ready to learn how to read, and I became one of the better readers in the class. I still love to read!
A child, teenager, or adult who does not know how to read feels much like a second-class citizen. Those of the younger generation who struggle with reading are embarrassed and often act out in school or church classes rather than be called upon to read. I know a young man who desired to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but he could not put his papers in for a mission until he read the Book of Mormon – Another Witness of Jesus Christ. He had many friends who were also preparing to serve missions; they individually worked with their friend until he completed the book. He was an excellent reader as he read from the scriptures while giving his homecoming address to our ward. He was a good missionary because he could read, and he gained the ability to further his education after his mission.
Dawan Coombs, an Assistant Professor of English at Brigham Young University, is a former high school English teacher and now does research of struggling readers. She listed several ideas for how we can strengthen struggling readers, some of which are as follows.
(1) Give them a “strong support environment.” Help them to “feel safe” in attending and participating in our family scripture study or
church classes. Be careful about inviting them to read in class before they are ready and possibly give them some advance notice.
(2) Teach “scripture stories through audiovisual resources or pictures” before expecting them to comprehend what they read. When they know the basic story, they can “concentrate on understanding principles or themes” rather than “tracking characters and plot lines.”
(3) Be sure to “distinguish between actions and identities.” We should never confuse what someone does with who they are. A struggling reader has just as much worth as anyone else. When we help someone to overcome a struggle, we help them to understand their full potential as a child of God.
(4) Ask God for help. Ether 12:23-28 contains a lesson taught to Moroni by God. Moroni was afraid that people would mock his writings because of his weakness. God told him, “fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness.
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
Prayer helps both the parent/teacher and the struggling reader. One of the best ways to teach children to read is to have them take part in family scripture study. Several of my children give their children an opportunity to “read” scriptures when they are two or three years old. The parent reads a few words of a verse and waits while the child repeats the words. Then a few more words are given, and the child repeats them. This teaches the child several things: (1) Each child is an important part of the family. (2) The basic scripture story. (3) Scripture language. Gradually, each child begins to sound out the words on the page and eventually is truly reading the scriptures. I have been amazed at how well my young grandchildren read the big words in the scriptures.
The ability to read well is very important to building self-esteem as well as success in school. When a child or youth reads and loves reading, they are more prepared to strengthen their family, community, and nation.