Six-year-old Lauriah Shumway accepted a big challenge: to read aloud 100 books during her eight-week summer break before starting first grade in August.
It all started with a remarkably dedicated kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Daniels, who planted in Lauriah a desire to read, and taught her how. Mrs. Daniels taught her to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, to sing patriotic songs, and to express poems using American Sign Language. The care she had for her students was evident in the beautiful scrapbook she created for each one.
Lauriah, a member of the Ponderosa Ward, in the Payson Arizona Stake, “came to life with this teacher,” said Lauriah’s great-aunt, Linda. “I was so impressed with Mrs. Daniels, and I issued the challenge to Lauriah, thinking it would be a good way to give something back to her teacher.”
Lauriah’s initial response was enthusiastic. Keeping her motivated, however, was difficult at times.
A laminated chart on Aunt Linda’s wall helped. The chart was a pop-out bucket with 100 individual pieces of popcorn. Each piece represented a book that Lauriah read aloud to her great aunt or to one of her parents. After every 10 books she read, Lauriah was allowed to choose a prize from a dollar store.
Lauriah’s mother, Kyrie Brown, recalled her Aunt Linda offering challenges to her too when she was a child and shared books with her as well. “Aunt Linda had a ‘magic bag’ filled with pop-up books and would over-exaggerate the characters’ voices as she read.”
Kyrie said that, while it required a great deal of encouragement, Lauriah “developed a love for books at about book number 75.”
One day, Kyrie worried that something was wrong. There was silence in the house. Kyrie says, looking around, she discovered all four of her children snuggled up together, captivated as Lauriah, the oldest, read them a story. Kyrie snapped a photo and sent it to Aunt Linda. For both of them, seeing that moment was the best part of the whole project.
As Lauriah approached her goal, the family agreed that the 100th book must be special. Instead of pulling one from their collection at home or borrowing from a library. Kyrie bought a new copy of “The Night Before First Grade,” by Natasha Wing.
The night before Lauriah began first grade, though she and her family were tired from a long day of school preparations, she read every word, sharing the last few pages over the phone with Aunt Linda.
At school the next morning, Lauriah gave Mrs. Daniels a list of the 100 books she had finished.
Lauriah now has this advice for other children: “You’ve got to learn to read. It’s fun.”