Chapter 37: It Takes a Village

You’re not all on your own

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We all want a bright future for our children. But, today, raising healthy, successful children can be challenging. After all, there’s just so many important things you have to keep track of. You need to provide your children with a safe, clean home. You need to give them clothes, food, and healthcare, maybe even working more than one job so you can. You need to keep track of their homework, discipline, school and activity schedules, as well as what they’re eating, what they’re doing on the Internet, how they spend their free time and who they’re spending it with.

It can be overwhelming, can’t it? With everything else that’s going on, maybe reading practice is way down on your “to do” list. How can you possibly do everything you already do and teach your child to read, as well?

The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone. Way back in 1996, then first lady Hillary Clinton said, raising happy, healthy children “takes a family. It takes teachers. It takes clergy … Yes, it takes a village.” And it does! No one should have to face the challenging and all-important job of raising a human being all alone.

Finding the village

If your child is struggling to learn to read and needs more help or simply more practice than she can get at school, look around you. There might be a “village” of people who can step in and help out. Below are some “human resources” that you may have overlooked and who may be able to help you as you help your child become a competent, confident reader.

  • Call in the grandparents – Or aunts or uncles or neighbors you know well. Many older people have some free time on their hands and would be happy to become your child’s reading-practice buddy. You can arrange a set time for practice, or you can keep it more informal and simply have a pile of books ready for when Grandma drops by for a visit.
  • Don’t forget the sitter – Whether your child stays with a sitter only occasionally or attends after-school daycare on a regular basis, her caregivers might be a good source of some hands-on reading practice. After all, bored kids are the bane of every childcare provider, and most of them will be glad to have a project to work on while they spend time with your child.
  • Look to older siblings – If you have older children, see if they can step in once or twice a week to help with reading homework or practice. If the big sister is reluctant to help, offer a trade. Let her earn points toward a privilege she wants for every half-hour she spends reading with her younger sibling, or, you could even offer to pay her for her time.
  • Seek out service clubs – Many communities have service organizations dedicated to helping people in the community in a variety of ways. Contact some of them and simply ask if there are volunteers available for homework help or reading practice. Never leave your child alone with a stranger, however, no matter how well-meaning he or she may seem. Meet the volunteer in a safe, public place such as the library and plan on staying nearby the whole time. You can multitask by using the library table as a desk. While your child reads, you can pay bills, answer your email, or catch up on a reading of your own!
  • Ask at the school – Contact your child’s school and ask about after-school programs. Many of these are free or low cost and usually have time scheduled each day specifically for homework help. The seniors at your local high school may also be on the lookout for volunteer opportunities they can add to their scholarship resumes. The school may be willing to arrange a supervised time for your child to meet with one of these students and practice her reading.
  • Even Fido can help – An article in the Huffington Post outlines a program run by Therapy Dogs International. The program and others like it, pair struggling readers with therapy dogs. The dogs do nothing more than provide an attentive, supportive audience while the children read out loud. The relaxed, non-judgmental atmosphere helps the kids’ reading skills blossom. If you have a dog – or a pet of any kind – you can set your child up in her own, personal pet-reading program. Simply provide a quiet space, a good book, and Fido. Then set a timer for 20 minutes or so and let your child relax and read until the timer rings.


Huffington Post, “Struggling Students Read to Therapy Dogs, Find Confidence in Judgement-Free Zone.”