Blog Posts

How an Early Emphasis on Education Inspired a Lifelong Love of Learning

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! Although this occasion is observed on the first full week of May each year, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) believes that we should celebrate the tremendous impact educators make every single day. The opportunities that reading and a good education can provide are limitless, which is why RIF is committed to supporting and working alongside educators nationwide by providing high-quality books and free resources for teachers, as well as for families to extend learning beyond the classroom. Karly O’Brien, RIF’s Content Developer, is a former educator and reading specialist who has an MA in Curriculum and Instruction, with a focus on Literacy. Read on to learn about Karly’s personal journey, and how reading and a family background in education helped shape her path.  

Young Karly with her family

My journey with reading and education goes back as far as I can remember. It all began with my family, ensuring that each adventure we embarked on included an opportunity to learn something new. Road trips became more than just sightseeing, and vacations became more than just sunburnt cheeks and sandcastles on the beach. These memories are infused with the idea that “there is no vacation without education!” As an angsty teen in the back seat of the car on our three-day journey to South Dakota, I rolled my eyes at every learning opportunity my family infused along the way. Little did I know that those experiences were going to lay the foundation for my appreciation for learning and my future career path. 

From the earliest ages, the importance of education loomed large. My mom was an educator, and this played a huge role in my life. From the earliest days, I was immersed in the world of knowledge and education, spending endless hours in her classroom and watching her dedication to her students. Even as a young preschool student, I was surrounded by educators, children, and a joy for learning that left a permanent mark on my heart. 

My passion for teaching grew as I got older – even if imaginary.  My younger cousin and I would “play school,” acting as teachers stocked with our supplies: a stand-up chalkboard, a stack of looseleaf paper that we begged our grandma to buy us at Staples, our fresh pack of Crayola Crayons (yes, with the built-in sharpener), and any other classroom supply you can think of. Even as pretend teachers, we knew how important it was to make sure our imaginary students had it all. 

As I reflect back on my personal reading journey, it wasn’t always a straight line.  It wasn’t until elementary school that I understood that my reading progress stood out. I excelled, decoding words effortlessly.  But my later middle school years brought upon a sudden realization that my ability to comprehend lagged in comparison my grade level peers. I took a strong dislike to reading for many years after this and it wasn’t until high school, when a remarkable teacher reignited my passion for learning through novels, such as The Great Gatsby, did I change the way I viewed reading. With this reignited flame, I was motivated to become the best educator out there. I didn’t want to just teach; I wanted to inspire my students to develop a love of learning just as I did. I had an increased understanding of students’ specific needs having watched my family find innovative moments for learning, watching my mom as a teacher, as a struggling reader myself, and ultimately as the passionate book lover I am today.

Throughout my experience in the classroom, I remained dedicated to ensuring every stakeholder involved in a child’s reading journey has the necessary resources for success. Now, in my role at RIF, I am so lucky to be able to create content for students, families, and educators to exemplify my commitment to providing support and fostering joy in the learning process. 

Discover more educator-focused resources available on Literacy Central. Also be sure to check out RIF’s educator-facing webinar series Every Educator Counts, available on the RIF Webinar Archive