My daughter just started first grade this year and has so far not been an early reader. She reads at what I think is grade level. And I am happy with grade level. Now. But wait, there is a long story of anxiety, worry, pushing, push back and then finally giving up.
My daughter always reminds me of the kind of parent she wants me to be when I lose my way.
She went to a local Montessori preschool which was not academic heavy per se. Kids played a lot in their big outdoor space and I thought my daughter was fairly ready for her Montessori public school. Not that, I formally checked. Kindergarten was when I realized that while many kids come to school with no preschool experience, there were kids way ahead of the reading and writing levels expected at kindergarten. And common core expects kids to be reading at kindergarten!
Talking with other parents whose 6-year olds were devouring the Mahabharata and writing not only in English but also in Spanish did not help! I must admit I had worry pangs over what I thought was my overly lackadaisical attitude.
Looking Back – Preschool
My daughter had her phonic sounds down (the preschool did some work after all! ) but was just not interested in taking the trouble to read. She would much rather have me read to her, which I was happy to do and always did. Ever since she was 6 months old.
But then there was the Book in the bag – 20 minutes of reading everyday that was her only home work and she would absolutely hate it!
The books did not have a story – because when you are doing lower levels of self-reading, the books can hardly have any stories. This would just make her not want to read. She would get upset that all the frog did in the book was jump, jump, jump (yeah what to do though right?)
And every evening it was a battle to get her reading done. I tried bribes, threats, breaks, dad taking over. Nothing worked. I started getting anxious that my daughter is going hate reading because of this pressure!
When summer came, I simply let her be. More because I had truly lost the battle with her. And also because I was tired of battling with her over this and simply wanted her to have a summer of fun. We would figure it out when first grade arrived.
Meanwhile, we stumbled upon “information books”. National Geographic readers and the like. She loved to look at pictures of animals, meteors, volcanos and things. And sometimes would attempt to read the book. I would pretend like I didn’t care. If she asked me for help with words I would resist the urge to tell her to sound it out – which would just lead to frustrated whining and just tell her the word.
But I did not give up fully. I simply bought books I thought she might like and left it lying around. Sometimes I would ask her if she wanted me to read any of those books, but mostly we enjoyed watching Just Add Magic and Kick!
Summer ended and it is like a switch was turned on. When I was not watching, my daughter had started reading more fluently and willingly!
Now she has tried the Frog and Toad series and we are attempting a Magic Treehouse together because her friends read them. I read a page and then she reads another. This helps her comprehend the story better because we can talk about it together.
I also read her favorites to her as usual. It all depends on the day and mood. Sometimes it is mythology, other days it is Wiggle and Waggle.
Now when I read she wants to know which line I am on in the book. We have moved from stop tracing the line with your fingers to please trace them.
I can’t wait to share this phase with her. We are ready for Book in the bag! Bring it on!
What I learned
As my daughter teaches me every time, all in good time and kids do things whenever they are ready. Things are so much easier when they are ready. Whether it is rolling over, potty training, reading Harry Potter or riding a bike – my child is going to do it at her pace. This is a reminder to trust in my child and let her hold the reins of her life. And to not fall in the race to – I am not entirely sure where.
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