Raising a Reader 70s Style

How to raise a reader… if you Google this you will get over 90 million hits. It is a hot topic with both parents and educators.

I was raised in the 70s when parenting styles were more laid back then they are today. My parents raised me to be a reader without parenting books, expensive home reading programs, apps, a tutor or flashcards. What they did was really quite simple… they surrounded me with books and they read… a lot.

Our house was full of books. Piled here, there and everywhere. My mom was, and still is, a fan of romance novels although now she has moved onto mysteries too. Whenever I visit my parents now, I rummage around the house and I can always find a good read.

My mom had friends with whom she swapped books. They would exchange bags and boxes full of books. Each book marked with a coding system so the readers would know who had read which book and who they needed to pass the book along to. These exchanges usually involved a good visit and a cup of coffee or tea. These ladies were doing their own form of the suburban book club before it was chic.

My dad is a nonfiction reader. I remember books about sailing, fishing, astronomy and woodworking. If he had an interest in a topic, he found a book for it. He had a bookcase next to his chair brimming with books. One Christmas my mom commissioned a neighbor to build my father a wall sized bookcase which he quickly filled with all of the books he had somehow crammed into the smaller book case.

Whenever my father left the house, he always brought reading material. He still does this today. A quick trip meant one book tucked under his arm. If it was going to be longer he brought a bag of books. When he did jury duty he brought a box of books. I picked this habit up from my father. I almost always have a book or two when I leave the house. More if I am going to be gone longer. The Kindle app on my phone is always there for me in the event of a reading emergency.

I remember the book case in my room crammed full of books. The books changed as I grew up but the same bookcase was always there. My parents didn’t fret over my reading level, they just provided me with books they knew I would enjoy. Some of my books came from classroom book orders or gifts from my grandparents. We spent hours at the local bookstore browsing and buying books. Somehow my parents always found the time to browse and money to buy books.

We were also regular patrons of the public library in town. I have fond memories of my dad and I walking into town on Saturday mornings. We would arrive in time for me to go to story hour so my dad could have a few moments of peace to select his own books. He would pick me up and we would choose my books. After that we would walk up Main Street to the local news store where I would get candy and dad would get magazines.

We had a lot of books and my parents spent a lot of time reading. They read books aloud to me. Despite all this, I didn’t become a reader easily. I struggled. I remember when I entered first grade thinking I will finally learn how to read. I didn’t.

I don’t remember my parents panicking although I do know my mother was a fierce advocate. I am sure she went to school and “had a chat” with someone. I got a little extra help and by fifth grade I took off without looking back. At one point, in sixth grade, I asked Mrs. Carter, the school librarian, for a book suggestion. Her response was, “I don’t think we have any left that you haven’t already read.” I was a reader.

My parents laid the foundation for me to become a reader by providing books and modeling what readers looked like and acted like. This foundation gave me the belief, even when I got stuck, that I too would be a reader. I wish all children could have a foundation like mine to become strong readers.

I am so thankful for all that my parents did for me growing up but most of all I am so glad that they raised me to be a reader.



  1. I identify with so much of what you wrote. My father-in-law is EXACTLY the same as your dad. He doesn’t go anywhere without a book. But, what I enjoyed most was your personal story of becoming a reader and how your parents laid the foundation of modeling reading so that you could become a reader. What an inspirational story of perseverance!

  2. I loved reading this… My husband and I were just chatting this evening aboutbwhatban impact it has has on our daughter by simply reading to her all of the time and having her see us as readers …. What an impact we can have on kids without even knowing it!

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