I Was a Late Reader: Lessons Learned from Childhood

We often dismiss children as immature and unimportant. We even dismiss our own childhoods as simpler times when we had fewer responsibilities. But childhood is a time of major growth and there are a lot of lessons to be found in it.


Lesson 1: It’s not too late

When I was in first grade learning to read with all the other first graders I was lagging behind pretty badly. Granted, I had a summer birthday and was therefore one of the youngest in the class, but considering many kids learn to read at age five or even earlier it was pretty late. In fact, I learned many things later than most. However, by second grade I was a voracious reader, devouring books and always hungry for more, a trait that lasted until adult responsibilities slowed me down a bit. And I learned all those other things too.

Today I still come to things late. I didn’t really have any idea what I liked or wanted to do until high school and I didn’t truly flourish until I was an adult. Sometimes this discourages me, since people my age who started earlier are already excellent at what they do, but I have to remember my childhood and know that I will get there and it’s okay to be a late bloomer.

Lesson 2: Practice is key

It is said that children learn languages faster and more easily than adults, but that’s not entirely accurate. They take years of frequent practice to master their native language, and it’s hard work that frustrates them sometimes. Older children moving to a new country may pick it up faster since they can transfer some things over from their native language, but again that’s with lots of practice. When schools give them separate classes in their native language they take longer to learn and sometimes never fully reach a native speaker’s level.

Nobody can instantly learn new skills. Natural talent exists and can be a big help, but it can only get one so far and somebody with average talent who practices will often surpass the highly talented but lazy person. This is something I have to remind myself of often, especially when it comes to drawing, which I’m not at all naturally good at.

Lesson 3: Embrace your curiosity

“Why, why, why why, why?” It is many a child’s favorite question. Certainly it was mine. Children want to know everything about the world around them and they won’t be deterred in their single minded quest to find answers.

When we grow up we often become concerned with day to day survival and forget to look at all the wonder that’s around us. Curiosity and inquiry can open new worlds. I never would have found my love of writing or art if I’d stuck with the familiar, if I hadn’t though “I wonder if there’s something to this thing,” and my life would be a lot duller if I didn’t intentionally seek out information on whatever comes to mind on a regular basis.

Lesson 4: Relax your inhibitions

Children don’t care that they look stupid with their toilet paper roll unicorn horn or that their blanket fort is structurally unstable (okay maybe they should care about that). They’re too busy having a good time.

Inhibitions are good for some things, like safety, but too often they stop us from doing what we want. We worry what people will think or, worse, we judge ourselves for liking something so “stupid.” Take time to have fun and do what you love!

Lesson 5: Surround yourself with love

Growing up I was unpopular and lightly bullied. I learned early the value of a true friend, as I suspect many do. To this day, my close friends are precious to me.

Critique is a good thing.  We (especially artists) can even get frustrated when those close to us only give us praise but we want something more substantial. But it’s also incredibly important to have an inner circle that’s supportive for when we get too caught up in the negativity. People to lean on when everything else is too much.


What lessons have you taken from your own childhood or from children in general?

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6 Replies to “I Was a Late Reader: Lessons Learned from Childhood”

  1. I love kids and their attitudes towards the world. They get so excited over little things. Clover and dandelions are the best flowers in the world. Noodles shaped like octopuses are amazing. Bugs are interesting, $2 necklaces are the best presents ever, bubbles are the ultimate way to spend a summer day, mud is a necessary clothing adornment.

    They’re not afraid to ask why, or say what they think. They appreciate things in a way that it seems we’ve forgotten how to do as adults.

    • They’re so much fun to watch and they’re excitement is infectious! Well until they start getting on the nerves. 😉 But, definitely, they appreciate things in a way we often forget or take for granted when we grow up.

  2. I think many kids and adults would be inspired by this. When I used to teach I heard many times from teenagers that it was too late for them to start reading for pleasure. I always maintained that they just hadn’t found a text to capture their attention and imagination yet. I encouraged them to bring in magazines, comics, whatever had writing in it (within reason of course!). They enjoyed making their own choices and, most importantly, they were reading!

    • I’m always confused by people who say they don’t like reading. I guess what they mean is that they don’t like reading for school. There has to be something they’d like to read! To each their own, I suppose.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. I have a surprisingly large number of friends who don’t read much, if at all. Except, that’s not quite true–they just read things other than books, whether it’s hundreds of scientific articles because they’re interested in a specific subject, or huge technical tomes for whatever classes they’re taking, or political articles, etc., etc. I figure that makes them readers, too, even if they don’t see it that way.

    When kids say they don’t like to read, though, that makes me really sad. Granted, some kids find it difficult to read (dyslexia, ADD, etc.), but even they might be interested in this comic book or that graphic novel or even a book consisting solely of pictures (The Silver Pony!) The problem is, kids don’t always get a chance to read what they want. And when they’re made to read something they don’t want (I’m looking at you, school curriculum), they become a lot less likely to want to read for pleasure.

    • Yes, many people read a lot of nonfiction for pleasure. I have a few friends I suspect don’t read at all, or read very little. I’m sure there must be something they’d like to read, but I don’t want to push it. They aren’t close friends.
      And it’s a good point that some can’t read or find it very taxing. That’s too bad, but I’m sure they find their relaxation. For myself, I’m grateful that I discovered I like to read and never let go of that, even when I didn’t like what I was reading at the moment. (Ah, the dreaded school curriculum.)