Ann Farabee: Read for fun

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 18, 2024

By Ann Farabee

This fact I read recently disappointed me:

Most children stop reading for fun by the age of 9.

Do what? Reading for fun is how I grew up! Nancy Drew was always solving mysteries. Cherry Ames was the greatest nurse in the world.

Everyone remembers them, right?

I suppose there was not much interest in a series about a teacher. I certainly would have read it had it been available.

Elementary school was filled with reading groups, social studies books, science books and books from the school library. My favorite time to read at school was during what was referred to as “Independent Reading.” To me, that simply meant that I could get lost in my book and forget that I was sitting in a classroom surrounded by 30 other students.

After I would get home from school, I would play school by myself in the living room, where there was a shelf that held all the volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia from which I would read to my imaginary students, who were actually my marbles lined up in rows. I chose marbles because every one of them was different, so I could teach them individually and as a whole group.

If I was outside playing, I tried to get my friends and siblings to play school with me. It happened often, unless they all decided to hold a beauty pageant instead. I did not have much luck in the beauty pageants, but I usually got to be the teacher when we played school.

As I was growing up, Cannon Mills and the Kannapolis YMCA was the heartbeat of our town. My favorite part of the YMCA was the library. I spent a ridiculous amount of time in that library.

But why not?

There was a world there awaiting me that I could not locate elsewhere.

There were books about every thing I could think of and books about things I had not yet thought of. Often, I would sit at a table and read, but sometimes I would just sprawl out on the floor in the quietest spot I could find, where I could be surrounded by books. That was usually in a part of the library called the reference room.

Yes, I must brag a little that I went home at the end of most summers with a special book that was gifted to me — because I was in the Cannon Memorial Library Reading Club — and I would read more books than anyone else had read. Those special books I was awarded sat on shelves wherever my home was for half a century before they were moved to the attic.

Even without the awards, I still would have been there reading. Reading took me to places I could never imagine visiting. Reading took me away from my worries. Reading opened up a new world for me.

During many of my years of teaching, my students read independently 30 minutes a day.

Some of them would sprawl out on the classroom floor, or sit in a corner with their book.They were even allowed to put their feet up on their desks as they read. One student each day got to sit at the teacher desk and read, as I sat at a student desk and read. That classroom was silent because every person was lost in their book. It took practice. It took concentration. It took training. But they began to read for fun — and for knowledge.

At the end of the 30 minutes, I would look up from the book I was reading, and softly say, “Our independent reading time is up.” Then there would be a quiet re-entry into our regular school day. We had all just spent 30 minutes at different locations of the world, reading, learning and experiencing different things in the world. The still of the room during Independent Reading time each day is a memory I still cherish..

Training them to read independently — and me reading independently alongside them as they read — worked. They began to love to read. Sometimes during instructional time, I would see a student slide the book they had been reading out of their desk slightly, locate their bookmark, and take a peek at that page, so they could read just a little further to see what happened. When I would see this, I would never interrupt them. I completely understood. They would get back to reality on their own in a few minutes.

Reading still opens up a world for any of us who allow it to do so.

Yes, I have taught students from all walks of life — and maybe, just maybe — some of them still like to read for fun!

Ann Farabee is a teacher, writer and speaker. Contact her at or

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