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How I Turned My 7-Year-Old Into A Bookworm

flickr / Bear

The following was syndicated from Quora for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at

What are some of the best things you did as a parent raising your children that you wish other parents knew about so they could do the same?

I have a handful of things I did that I regret as far as our one and only child, a daughter. However, I am hugely grateful to say that the handful of things her dad and I did well have far out-shined the ill-considered moments when our parental fatigue and inexperience brought short fuses. And if you’re wondering why I mention that, let’s just say her dad and I were introverted loners that often questioned our ability to cope as parents. Neither of us thought we were tolerantly wired to cope and, of course, circumstance handed us quite the willful little handful.

Top of the list was a dogged devotion to reading her to sleep every night until about the age of 9. It was worth every favorite book we memorized because it launched her early into reading on her own despite her hiding it for about a year.

Second on the list was we never “promised” anything. It was always “a strong possibility” or “let’s all talk about it at dinner.” I had my own emotional baggage with promises broken from my single parent and we’d agreed that the word “promise” would not slip through either of our lips without consulting the other. Our wily child began trying to pin us on that evasiveness at around 6 years old, but had to accept that “if I’m not sure I can do this, to make a promise is not wise.” It was our way of teaching responsibility in owning your words.

Third on the list was the year our daughter pushed back on the summer reading for school and we came back with cutting the cable for 3 months. This was not presented as a punishment, but a joint vacation from the barking television so we could all read and catch up on vintage movies. We had a few wild weeks of she and her dad watching a crop of B-level horror movies and a flock of awesome black ’n whites … it was the year she fell in love with Harvey and Arsenic and Old Lace. After the brief binge (before binges were the thing), she slid sideways into some “older” books (she was reading well above her grade level) and didn’t come up for air until the start of the next grade. We might have snagged her with reading in the evening, but this was the summer we set the hook for life.

It was worth every favorite book we memorized, because it launched her early into reading on her own despite her hiding it for about a year.

Her dad, a 23-year USAF veteran, and I were self-employed, working from home doing trade and retail shows. Although this didn’t play well for us financially, as we’ve come into retirement after the Great Recession, neither of us regret that we were able to take the time to do turns volunteering to go on our daughter’s field trips. Our daughter rewarded this effort one day around fifth grade by announcing, “Nobody, nobody else at school has parents like mine. You’re always there.” Yep, I had to slip to the bathroom and have a short sniffle on that one.

Since my BA was in art history, I was also able to take on the county’s volunteer art docent program for her class from grades one through 6, missing only the fifth grade. Initially, our little force of nature was ambivalent as to my coming to school to talk about art paintings and present an art project. There was a year where she was miffed in her conviction that her classmates liked her mom more than her. By fifth grade, the year I skipped as the teacher already had a docent working with him, she was indignant and quite unforgiving that her mother was “fired by the teacher”. There was no convincing her otherwise although we did manage to unwind her stubborn payback of refusing to do His Homework by Christmas. Little whirlwind, this one.

There were a number of projects in high school as well but the formative efforts were before and during grade school. To sum up, we essentially stepped in wherever our knowledge and perseverance would grant the best example we could set for our one and only. She’s presently 27 years old, a creative thinker, passionate about her job, ferociously loyal to her friends, adorably protective of her parents … and I couldn’t be prouder. It was worth every crazy moment.

Ruth Marie Hofmann is a thread artist and teacher. Read more from Quora below: