So this cool thing happened the other day, and I have no really good place to talk about it. Since this blog is a big mish-mashed mess, I’m going to just put it here.
The first thing that you have to know is that my 8 year old daughter generally doesn’t like to read. She isn’t technically bad at reading; she recognizes the words just fine, and she can sound out what she doesn’t know. But there’s a big difference between being able to read a string of words on a page and being able to read a story on a page. The former, she could do. The latter… hasn’t been happening. One of the myriad of reasons that my children are now learning at home instead of in school is the fact that my daughter has been behind in things like this for years, despite entering the public school system around the age of two thanks to early intervention programs. I figured that I couldn’t possibly be doing worse than they’ve been doing.
I’ve been trying a few different things to get her to be more engaged while reading. Most recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that her reading selections are all too boring. When she had to read at school, it was the pointless school-like stuff they post on ditto sheets. When I let her choose her own reading material, she opted for the easy route, picking books that were way under reading level. They may have been easier, but they were boring. I figured that if I could find a story she could sink her teeth into, maybe we would start getting somewhere. So I told her we were going to start reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Not an abridged or Disneyfied version; I went to Project Gutenberg so that we could read the original. I picked it because my daughter liked the 2010 movie with Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, and because Alice reminds me a little bit of my daughter (if you met her, you’d know exactly what I mean.)
I didn’t ask for much at first. She looked at the chapter list and all of the text with no pictures and objected profusely — which I expected — so I asked her for five minutes. That was it. And we took turns reading — she will read a sentence and then I’ll read a sentence. She thinks I’m giving her a break by doing that, but what I’m really trying to do is model what reading aloud sounds like when you’re understanding what you’re reading while you’re reading it. I think that’s hard for kids to get, sometimes. In class, teachers start reading to them when they can read the words themselves, not when they can read the story inside the words themselves. It’s a different thing. It’s why when you listen to early readers, they stop at the end of the line as if it had a period when it doesn’t, or they don’t pause at commas — it sounds weird, but it’s because they can read the words, but they aren’t seeing or hearing the story in their heads. And if all they are hearing is themselves and other kids who are doing the same thing… anyway, I wanted her to read, but I also wanted her to hear the story. So we started switching off sentences and reading Alice in 5-minute increments.
And then, the 5-minute increments started to get a little longer. We started reading for 6 minutes, then 7 minutes. Then a few days ago, we doubled the goal time that we’d set together before we started reading, because my daughter couldn’t bear to leave Alice in the predicament that she was in at the time when we’d planned to stop. Then, to top it off, the other day — a day that we were scheduled off from school work — she demanded to read some more Alice. She wanted to know what happened next. Despite not being required to do any reading that day, we finished the chapter we were on.
And that was when it hit me that she really was finally seeing the story, not just the words on the screen. It’s pretty amazing to watch. My older son was basically born reading, and my younger son is 6 and learning, but he’s picking it up much more organically and easily than his younger sister. So this is my first real view of one of my children slowly but surely becoming a reader. And it’s an amazing thing.