A Lifetime of Reading


2015-2016 Missouri Reading Corps tutor, Jill Powers, reflects on how her positive experience with reading shaped her interests and motivates her to provide a similar experience to her Reading Corps students.

One of my earliest memories is from when I was about two or three years old, watching my older brother’s future Pre-K teachers reading to him in our grandmother’s living room. I asked Grandma when I would get to learn to read. As soon as I got the chance to pick up a book, I did, and I never wanted to put it down.

My love of reading drove me through my primary and secondary education, and soon it will take me through a Ph.D. in English so that I can eventually become a college literature professor. Now that I have earned my Bachelor’s degree in English and psychology, I see how much better that passion has made, and continues to make, my life.

Loving to read made me read more often, making it easier to read, making school easier, and making learning more fun. I learned to enjoy writing in and the art of the English language. I learned that reading opened up not only fantasy worlds, but also worlds of the past and far away places. Books made me smarter, braver, and more understanding.

While I wondered at the wealth of knowledge I was gaining, I saw my peers struggling, angry and unwilling to practice their literacy skills. As a writing tutor during my undergraduate study, I met peers, smart individuals, who wanted to further their educations but didn’t consistently write in full sentences or with the same verb tense. Many of them hated writing research papers and lowered the quality of their own to avoid reading secondary sources.

Too many students grow up without the love of reading that is necessary for them to become fluent in literacy. Without practice and encouragement, reading quickly becomes difficult work. Everyone deserves the positive experience with learning to read that I had as a child, in order to get their best chance at succeeding in their education. If I can give that positive experience to someone, I will.

That’s why I joined the Missouri Reading Corps: to help give as many kids as possible their best chance. Pre-K is one of the best times to do this; most of these students have not yet formed long-lasting attitudes towards reading. My three-, four-, and five-year-olds are constantly showing me how excited they are about learning the names of letters, spelling their names, and learning new words. I feel such pride when they ask me if they can read a book to me, and they follow the words from left to right with their finger instead of pointing all around the page. Some of them, only a month into school, are learning what sounds each letter makes and can tell you the first letter of a word just by hearing it.

As simple as these skills sound, as trivial as the children’s excitement may seem, nothing is more important to a bright future. Cities can’t be built without people to read the plans. Countries can’t be governed without people to write and interpret laws. Websites, banks, stores, and especially schools need people who love to read, and all of the Reading Corps students are on their way to becoming those people.

Perhaps one day, I’ll teach one of my former Pre-K children in my college classroom.