If you have ever met my daughter Faith, it doesn’t take long to detect her love for reading. No doubt that reading presents additional challenges for a child with Down syndrome, but I believe God has provided divine intervention so he could be glorified through this young life.
This is why I knew that she would be interested in reading some of the books suggested in an article from The Gospel Coalition titled A Complete Classical Christian School Reading List” Grades 1-8, Upon scanning the list, I texted my wife Monica the link to the article. Almost immediately, she traveled to the library to pick put a few of the books on the list. One book that caught her eye was The Courage of Sarah Noble, a story about a young lady “and her father who traveled through the wilderness to build a new home for their family.”
Below, I have included one of the letters from my book Letters to My Daughter: The story of how one family overcame tragedy and loss, in which I encourage Faith to embrace a love for reading.
This video shows Faith reading The Courage of Sarah Noble, which is an example of how God used her reading skills to help her cope in difficult times.
There is one thing that you love more than going to the park, coloring, or playing board games, and that is reading. A few years before you were born, your mommy began a master’s degree in teaching reading. Many hours were spent studying, reading books, and writing papers. Sometimes having fun was set aside temporarily to finish her degree. Her rationale for getting the degree was to use it just in case the school system ever phased out Spanish, something the leadership in her district at the time was discussing as a possibility.
A few years after she graduated with that degree, we moved to Columbus, Indiana, which had a thriving Spanish program. She soon realized that there was much job security teaching Spanish in her new district. Therefore, she put the possibility of teaching reading to rest, assuming the reading degree would not be of any use.
When you came along, that all changed. From the very beginning, we read to you nearly every day, most of the time a minimum of an hour a day. A small part of me wondered if we should have spent our time doing something else, given your young age. Luckily, your mom’s training and my previous training in elementary education informed us otherwise. Our education familiarized us with how children learn. We knew that a child’s vocabulary grows exponentially if parents read to him or her early in life, which is why we committed to spending a certain amount of time every day reading to you.
Long before you were born, books were always a part of our home. Over the years the need to have a larger home was partly determined by the increasing number of books I was purchasing. Your mom was so happy when Amazon invented Kindle, so I could buy eBooks, which didn’t take up any space.
Yet, despite growing up in such an atmosphere, your joy and love for reading seemed to be innate. Today, you would rather read a book than watch a television show or play a video game.
When you first began your love for reading, you were reading by yourself, though you didn’t understand the words. I witnessed this for the first time one day as I was headed out the door and saw you out of the corner of my eye sitting in the middle of the family room reading to yourself. You were sitting in your chair, with your nose in your favorite book. I was so proud as the fruits of your mom’s and my labor were made immediately visible to me that day.
The early years of reading to you nurtured a love of reading in you that complemented your God-given desire to read. When you were younger and didn’t understand the words, your facial expressions told the story as you dramatized what you read.
About a year later, you began reading to your dolls. You would have three or four of them lined up side by side, reading to them the whole time. Obviously, you were a natural teacher as you mimicked your mom and me reading to you. You were extending that same commitment to teaching others to your dolls. This is one of the blessings of parenthood, seeing you carry on in your mom’s and my footsteps.
My goal was to have you reading on your own by the end of the first grade. You did not disappoint. One evening, as you were getting ready for bed, you asked to come back into the living room to join me. I handed you the book and asked you to read it to me. At first, you were reluctant. You politely asked me to read it to you. But I pressed this issue and had you read it. You read to me every word.
I never told you this, but after you went to bed, I went in my room because I was overcome by emotion, as this was something your mom didn’t get to witness, but I did. You did it! You were reading on your own. We were told not to expect those kinds of results this early in your life. After all, you had a disability. However, we were determined not to place limits on you from the beginning. Instead, we wanted you to discover your own limits.
Over the years, reading has meant so much to me. I never was much of a reader until I was in my 20s. Then a whole new world was opened to me. I want that same thing to continue to happen to you.
Reading was also a big part of your mom’s life. Her grandmother nurtured that desire in her. Your mom knew that God strategically placed her grandmother in her life to shape her into the person she became. She played an important role in your mom’s life in many ways. Her love for reading opened a new world to your mom much earlier than it did me.
Several years ago, I read a story about a little girl like you who loved to read, and didn’t value watching television quite as much. Her teacher was curious and asked her why. The little girl’s response was priceless. She said she liked reading much better because the pictures were clearer. Reading helped to develop her imagination. G. K. Chesterton once said that imagination is the most important part of education. I think he is right! It allows the words in a book instead of images on a television set to shape the mind.
I am so proud of you. You don’t allow obstacles to stand in your way. You learned to read long before most people thought you would. As you grow older, continue not to allow me or anyone else put limits on you. Discover them for yourself. Then, when you do, don’t beat yourself up about them. Just acknowledge that you are human, and all humans have limits.
Hugs and kisses,
Tim Orr is an inspirational writer and speaker who glorifies God through adversity with his daughter, Faith, by his side. He is the author of We Named Her Faith: How We Became a Gospel-Centered Family, and for ten years he has taught religious studies at Indiana University–Purdue University Columbus. Orr has appeared on Stu Taylor’s nationally syndicated program Stu Taylor on Business and has shared his story on The 700 Club. His greatest joy in life is being a father to Faith and Carlos and a husband to Monica.