Thursday, October 28, 2010

Freaking Out About Reading

My friend, Silvia, has written a wonderful post on children's reading skills or lack thereof on her blog Homeschooling in a Biligual Home and why we shouldn't worry so much about the latter.  I remember a dear friend of mine lamenting over her son's labored efforts at reading when he was in the first grade.

"He's not reading yet," said she.

"He will," I asserted, in what I hoped was a soothing voice.

"He just doesn't seem to get it."

"He'll get it." (heartily)

"So you think I'm worrying too much about this?"


He's now a reading fiend.

When Miss Priss was in first grade in public school, I tutored (in reading) two other first graders at her school who were not "reading at grade level." But what does that mean, anyway? Reading is not age specific; one child may get it at five and another not read fluently until s/he is nine. And even though I was happy to work with these children -- volunteered for the program, in fact -- I figured they were merely later bloomers to reading. Notice I did not say "late," which implies a concerning delay, but simply "later."

But parents tend to freak out about reading, which is understandable since it's a pretty important skill.  And schools don't tend to make allowances for children who come to reading later than others, unless it's to label them as slow or "below grade level."  Even if tutoring programs are available, such as the one for which I volunteered, the oh-so-helpful grading system still penalizes these children.  No parent likes to see that on a progress report.

And homeschooling parents are under the gun, too.  If our children are "slow" to read, then what does that say about us as teachers, never mind our children's lack of reading prowess?  And there go our dreams of Harvard up in smoke.

Miss Priss took to reading like a fish to water.  Not so, Tiny Girl.  In first grade, she was a reluctant reader.  She loved my reading to her, but not reading on her own, which was too much work.  However, in second grade, she took off; and now, in fourth grade, she reads fluently, more than many of her friends, in fact.  She was "Exhibit A," right in my own home.

But I didn't take a completely hands-off approach, either.  I read daily to both my children and still do.  I severely limited media exposure.  I searched out fun and interesting "easy" readers, limiting any twaddle (My Little Pony, anyone?).  I read a lot in their presence.  We talked about books.  We listened to audio books when we folded laundry or while we were in the car.  I wanted my children to know that books and reading are important to our family.

I try to live that out every day.  It's easy for me; I'm an impassioned reader, and I strive to kindle that flame in my children.  So far, so good.

I've got to run now.  I have my book club in a little while!


  1. Excellent...I like what you said...not worry but not to be hands off. Limit media is to me key, and keep reading, modeling, making reading part of your life...they´ll click. Again, I can´t stress how important it is not to overlook more serious difficulties other than progress that seems slow to the mother, and more time needed to take off.
    I´m glad both your girls are strong readers now. Great post and good job.

  2. That friend of yours sounds like a real nutcase. It's a good thing she has a friend like you to rely on. I hope she lets you know frequently how much she loves and appreciates you!

  3. I have a "later bloomer" too (what a lovely phrase). I find it so encouraging to read this type of post. Sometimes I manage with ease and other times I'm desperately fighting the urge to compare my children with other children.

    There is of course The System to convince... but if I start with myself, that has to be a good thing.

  4. Shona, I'm glad you found encouragement in this post! That urge to compare our children with other kids is a hard one to beat back, isn't it? :-) The System, as you so rightly call it, has a hold on us to a degree. I just keep telling myself: we're doing things differently.

    Most of the time, it works! And when it doesn't, I pray.


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