In the summer months, Patty Ryall reads as many as 10 books a day to her three children. That's a whopping 300 books a month, and it doesn't include the ones her oldest child, 7-year-old Vincent, reads himself, or the ones he reads to the two younger kids.
A year ago, Vincent had behavior problems in school, getting in trouble for things like name-calling and yelling at other kids. His teacher said he was having a difficult time relating to others. Although his behavior problems are not completely gone, Ryall says he has improved, and she credits the time she spends with him reading as a partial reason for the change.
|Patty Ryall and her children
Ryall was inspired by the summer reading program at the library where she lives in Big Lake, Alaska. It encourages children to read by giving prizes for book reading and by hosting weekly kid activities, such as talent shows, clowns, magic trick shows, also giving away ice cream and other treats. She says in the summer too many kids get what she calls, "mushy brain" from not enough intellectual stimulation.
"No mushy brain!" says 5-year-old Pamela pointing to the top of her head.
Ryall spent her own childhood in and out of foster homes since the age of 6. She says she was pushed through the foster care system, forced to graduate high school without the skills necessary to compete in society.
"They wanted me out. I had been in the system too long," she said. "I graduated at fifteen without even knowing my cursive letters."
She sees other women around her now, friends, who use school as a baby sitter for their children. When the kids leave for school, they head out to party. And when the school says the child is having problems, "they just don't care," Ryall says.
But Ryall cares, a lot. She's determined to "break the cycle" and make sure that what happened to her won't happen to her kids.
"I want my kids to be smart," she says.
To make sure of that she spends a lot of time reading to them and instilling in them a love of books. They also write together. Vincent writes weekly letters to his grandparents. Pamela, the 5-year-old, rehearses writing the alphabet letters and her name, and 3-year-old Roger tries his hand at what Ryall calls "controlled drawing."
"Most kids, when they're little, just scribble all over the page," Ryall says. "I try to get Roger to control his pencil, draw shapes; triangles, squares."
Ryall's husband Donald was also pushed through high school. He graduated barely able to read. Now he is learning along with the kids, says Patty Ryall.
"The other night, when I got tired, Donald finished reading to them," she said.
Ryall says it's rather a slow process because Donald works all day and when he comes home he's often too tired to read, but he's beginning to enjoy it more.
The children love all the attention they are getting and they have developed a passion for stories. Sometimes they will tell Dad that Mom wants to go to the library to get more books, when Mom has said no such thing.
"It's them," says Ryall. "They want the books."
Each child has a favorite subject: Pamela likes books about cats, Roger likes frogs and trains best, and Vincent -- well, he likes anything that has a motor.
Ryall says it seems the more they read, the more they want to read.
"That's why I'm reading to this one already," she says pointing to her slightly swelled belly. She's due in November.