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Becoming a Stronger Reader

Books! Books! Books! My bedroom was filled with books as a kid. My parents were both teachers, so the importance of reading was stressed to me at a young age.




Mike Wahle
Books! Books! Books! My bedroom was filled with books as a kid. My parents were both teachers, so the importance of reading was stressed to me at a young age. Truthfully it did not take a lot of convincing to make me pick up a book. I enjoyed reading and the things I discovered within the pages of each book.

I grew up an only child in Lake Arrowhead, California. Lake Arrowhead is approximately 90 miles east of Los Angeles in the San Bernardino National Forest and is a land of outdoor recreation and beautiful scenery. For obvious reasons, I spent a lot of time outside playing with my friends and exploring our neighborhood, but still always found time to read.

In fact, there was a time that I read so many books that I had problems finding room on my bookshelf for all of them! During my fifth grade year at Charles Hoffman Elementary School, my teacher developed a reading contest. The student who read the most books throughout the school year and wrote a book report for each one won a prize. We kept track of the number of books each of us read by creating paper chain links and looping them together. One link equaled a book read and report completed.

I decided that I was going to win this contest. I started to read almost every night. I would go outside and play with my friends after school, but always made sure I made it inside in time to get a couple chapters read before heading to bed. As the school year progressed, I was neck and neck with one other boy in class for the lead. Our paper chains were growing extremely long!

As any typical young boy, I was very active and filled with lots of energy. There were often times I struggled sitting down to read. It was a difficult challenge to stay inside and read on a warm, sunny California afternoon when all my friends were outside playing. But one of the things my parents emphasized was putting 110% effort towards finishing something you started. They often reminded me of my goal to win the contest which resulted in me knuckling down and making sure I kept on my task of reading each day.

Every day when I arrived at school, I would check to see if my classmate had another paper link on his chain. If he did, I would rush home and try to finish the book I was reading that day. I was actually reading three to four books a week! The Adventures of Robin Hood and the Encyclopedia Brown series were some of the many books that started to fill my bookshelf.

One of the other obstacles I faced during the contest was to make sure I comprehended what I was reading so that I could write the book report. I could read at a quick pace, but it was important to not just read the words, but remember the details so I could write about them when I had completed the book. When I found myself rushing through a book because I was so intent on adding another link to my chain the next day at school, I slowed my pace and focused on taking in the meaning of the book. It was important to write a good book report so that my teacher would add another link to my reading chain!

At the end of the school year, I came out on top! I read the most books in my class and won the coveted prize – a free pass to the local zoo. I remember feeling very satisfied and proud of my accomplishment. I had set a goal and did everything I could to achieve it. It also solidified my love for reading. I still read as often as my schedule allows and am looking forward to sharing my love of books with my children. Maybe someday my children will take after their dad and win a reading contest!

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