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May 9, 2018

Dear moms, thanks for helping us learn to read!

Maggie Seymour and her family listening to her mom read

When I look back on my earliest memories of reading, I think of a holiday tradition started by my mom. Every year, she would read aloud from The Polar Express to celebrate the season. Because of all of the expression she put into those stories, I developed an early love for books and never would’ve guessed that she didn’t personally enjoy reading much in her free-time. Once my brothers and I grew too old for read-alouds, it became pretty clear that she didn’t spend much time reading for pleasure.

Then something great happened: I managed to convince my mom to read Twilight, since it was extremely popular with both of our age-groups at the time. After finally being exposed to a genre that appealed to her, she quickly became a passionate reader and started to make up for lost time. While I’m embarrassed to think about how much we loved those books, I look back on them fondly. In a way, it felt like I was returning the favor: she helped me learn to love reading, and then later I got to help her learn to love reading.

The important role mothers can play in early literacy

According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, children who are read to at least three times a week are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent in reading compared to children who are read to less than three times a week. While students are often read to at school, this puts a lot of responsibility on parents to build on work done in the classroom.

This Mother’s Day, add learning to read to the ongoing list of things that make you grateful for your mom. Whether through encouraging you to read even when you didn’t want to, taking time to re-read your favorite story, or making sure you had access to books, moms often play a huge role in kids’ journeys to becoming lifelong readers.

The Moms of Reading Partners

As an organization full of passionate readers, many members of the Reading Partners community have stories just like mine. Here are a few from our AmeriCorps members and staff, citing the role their moms played in their paths to becoming champions of literacy:

“My mother would read to my elementary school class once a week when I was growing up. Recently, while discussing my new role with Reading Partners she asked if I remembered my grandmother (her mom) reading to my class as well. She asked if I remembered what my Gran would say when someone asked her why she loved reading. My Gran always responded, ‘Because I can go anywhere in the world.’

-Maggie Seymour, Development VISTA, South Carolina

“My mother is a brilliant orator. Every story she told me, I was able to envision myself in the moment. Every weekend, I would hear stories about her childhood in Guyana and read books. While she read stories from the Treasure of Fairytales, she would always change her voice to fit the character speaking and would make faces to showcase the emotions. I loved when she would read to me and I wanted to model her. My mother always encouraged my love of reading through signing me up for a library card in Kindergarten and welcoming opportunities for me to read books and explore creative writing.

Reading Partners allows me the opportunity to be an expressive storyteller and make reading as enjoyable for kids as my mother made for me. “

Malika Christopher, Volunteer Organizer, New York

“My mom read all of the Harry Potter books aloud to me and my brothers, even after we could read them to ourselves. It was so special to have a time as family where we were all equally invested in the same book and so excited to read it every night. Even as we were able to read the books independently, we begged our mom to keep reading to us. Now, my mom is able to volunteer as a tutor at the reading center where I serve as site coordinator. I love seeing how much her students engage in the tutor read aloud!”

Jessica Steinert, Senior Site Coordinator, Los Angeles

“Every week my mom and I would walk to the library to pick out new books and every night she would read to me before bed. We’d read the American Girl series, all of Patricia Polacco and E.B. White, and eventually Harry Potter. She often read until we fell asleep. One time, when I was about eight, she dozed off in the middle of a sentence. I knew what she was saying didn’t make sense, so I kept poking her awake to keep going. That was one of the first times I remember wanting to know how to read because I didn’t want to wait until the next night for my mom to keep reading.”

Sarah Arena, Development VISTA, Twin Cities

“My mom always read to me in bed before I went to sleep, which I know isn’t groundbreaking, but it instilled in me this lasting love of reading books in bed that I can’t imagine living without. When I was a kid my parents would often find me fast asleep still holding a book open on my chest and to this day, I can’t fall asleep (or at least I don’t like to) without reading a few pages of a book, and I still often fall asleep holding an open book (no screens!). My mom is one of the most prolific readers I’ve ever met and I think growing up with her it was impossible not to see the joy—and really, the daily necessity—of reading a good book.”

-Shannon David, Annual Giving Manager, National

“My mom read the entire Harry Potter series to my family. I remember her sitting in her green chair, while my brother, dad, and I listened intently to whatever drama was occurring in the particular chapter she was reading. We would beg her to read another chapter, even when she said her voice was tired. Reading Harry Potter is one example of how my mom created a culture of reading for my family. I credit my mom for instilling a lifelong love of reading in me. Thanks, Mom!”

Katie Priske, AmeriCorps Regional Site Coordinator, Colorado

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