I have always been a voracious, albeit not discriminating, reader. Comic books. Newspapers. Street signs. Ads on buses. Brochures in veterinarian offices. Even junk mail. And books, books, books.

Some children sleep with a stuffed animal. I kept a book under my pillow in case I woke up during the night desperate to discover how Nancy Drew solved the mystery or how Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle planted carrot seeds that grew on the arm of a child who refused to bathe.

For nearly 20 years, I’ve been sharing my love of literature as a “Rolling Reader” volunteer tutor at Jefferson Elementary School in Carlsbad. The premise is simple: throughout a school year, you read for 15 minutes with each of four struggling second- or third-grade readers, once a week.

What difference can 15 minutes make? A world of difference. Children who cannot read at grade level by the end of third grade are at risk of lagging behind in every subject during the remainder of their school years. That’s because courses from math to science require reading and comprehension skills.

Approaching the culmination of this school year, I asked one of my delightful young readers on a roll how he feels about reading. Last fall, he’d declared he hated to read because “I’m not good at it.” Now, he proclaimed, “I like to read!” Why? “Because I get smarter.”

It does my heart good to know I am helping to ensure that the next generation will be reading what I and others am writing.

Rafael reading blog