The Reluctant Reader Starts to Read
There was lots of squealing in my house tonight. Most of this squealing came from me. In fact, I think it’s more fair to say that all of the squealing came from me. And it darn near lasted for a whole thirty minutes.
Why so much squealing? It all started as Tim was giving Eric (23 months) a bath, Miles (8) was getting ready to take his reading log up to his bedroom, and Alec (5) and I were just sitting down on the couch to start a new workbook.
(Let me pause here for a moment to say, “HOLY CRAP! When I started this blog, my kids were 3, 11 months, and barely even a twinkle in my eye. Wow.”)
In any case, this workbook was one that I had purchased years ago when Miles was learning to write his letters. He was never one for mastering the art of handwriting (ha), so it ended up languishing in our office/playroom for a few years. When I rediscovered it last night, however, I vowed to try it out on Alec: our kindergartner, our bright Lego-builder, and our very reluctant reader.
When I describe Alec as a “reluctant reader,” I do this with the full knowledge that no one should expect every five-year-old to be ready to read. Many five-year-olds aren’t quite ready to read yet. This is perfectly normal. I know this, and yet I was still worried at the beginning of the school year when Alec showed few signs that he would be reading any time soon.
I was worried that he would somehow fall behind, that I had failed him, that any number of events (however irrationally they had appeared in my mind) would take place simply because he was (ultimately) a normally-developing child who hadn’t yet acquired a skill for which it was age-appropriate for him not to have.
Though I wish this weren’t the case, I was comparing my experience with one child to my experience with another. Miles, Alec’s older brother, had started reading all on his own when he was four years old. He began reading without Tim or I ever having made a concerted effort to teach him how to read. This too is how I learned to read, my mother walking into my bedroom one evening to find me reading verses out of the Bible. She was stunned when she flipped to one, two, three different pages just to make sure that I wasn’t reciting any of the words before me from memory. But that was just me. And that was just Miles.
And it wasn’t–it isn’t–Alec. Alec has too many other amazing things going on for him to worry much about learning to read, or at least learning to read at the lap of his straightforward, bookish mother. He builds amazing structures out of Legos. He’s adept at using a screwdriver and a wrench. He can crack an egg without getting shell in the bowl. He is the World’s Best Snuggler.
And up until now, he just hasn’t been ready to read.
Alec’s teacher and the elementary school he attends have been wonderful about helping him without pushing him too much. He sees a reading tutor once or twice a week, and they play games, and he’s always happy to learn with her.
I want education and reading and learning to be like this for him: happy, something that he enjoys, something that he sees as a part of his everyday life, all throughout his life.
And so, four months into the school year, I thought it was a good time to start this almost-newfound workbook with him.
The premise of the workbook was simple. Each page contains four or five words, and all the child has to do is practice tracing the letters and identifying various letter pairs and the sounds they make. A few months ago, Alec would have rejected something like this. But now, he was game for it right away, without me having to prod him whatsoever.
We started with him picking out the letters in each word, tracing them, and then writing them all on his own. Then a few words down the page, he stopped and proclaimed, “This word is ‘climb.’ And this one is ‘blue,’ And this one is ‘black.’ And this one…”
He proceeded to identify at least a dozen words on the pages in front of him. I skipped throughout the book, and he continued to read the words on the pages. And I was squealing, and he was smiling, and we were running throughout the house to show Tim and the other boys, and I was squealing some more, and he was grinning even more, and by the end of it, we probably startled the entire neighborhood.
And now here’s what I know: there was an excitement I experienced when Miles learned to read that was large and wonderful and fantastic.
But the excitement I experienced tonight when I heard and saw my reluctant reader sound out and identify words all on his own? After months, even years, of trying to help him do just that? And with a giant smile on his face? With an eagerness to read the words before him?
This excitement was something altogether different. It was immense and all-consuming.
It was the sort of excitement that still has me letting out little squeals and yelps when I think of what a huge leap my little boy just made.