Once Upon a Story
January 14, 2015

My daughter has had a break-through over the last two days.

She’s my avid reader. Or listener. She was using short phrases at her first birthday. She went to her first toddler storytime at 18 months and always sat through quietly. By the time she was two, she was listening to longer picture books. By the time she was four, it was chapter books.  When she started kindergarten in September, her ability to read independently took off.

She’s my verbal kid.

And then we hit a wall.

The “I can’t read this many words on a page” wall.

I noticed. I knew her ability. I knew it was a confidence thing. I encouraged, but I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.

She stuck to her guns.

I showed her books at the library that I thought she could handle.

She reached for simpler ones, and I rolled with it.

Last week, I brought home two books from the Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen.

She resisted. She didn’t want to read about a pig.

So I was surprised when she asked to read a little bit before bedtime last night. I read the first page. She read the second, then asked me to read the next page. We took turns for the first 2 chapters.

Between last night and lunchtime today (thank you, snow day) she finished it. All by herself.

She’s so stinkin’ proud.

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“Take a picture of the last chapter!”

Confidence plays a big part in this reading game.

You know what else does?


Let me introduce you to my son, my 3yo.

He was born in 2 hours and 45 minutes, start to finish.

He hasn’t slowed down since.

He does not like to sit on your lap and cuddle while you read. He does not like to sit still, period.

For the first 2.5 years of his life he would choose just about anything over listening to you read a book. Around the age of 2, we were able to settle him into a routine of listening to a story at bedtime, after he’d been bathed and dressed for bed, and was getting drowsy.  But during the day? Forget it.

About six months ago, he started bringing a book to me occasionally.  They were mostly interactive and there were lots of (loud!) interruptions, but it was nice to see his interest.

His ability to sit and listen really expanded, though, when his sister started reading. Because of all the people in the house, she is the one he most idolizes. And he’ll sit still for her.

Now we’ve started a practice of reading while dinner is cooking, the three of us. It starts with the 5yo reading the leveled reader she brings home from school every day. And then they take turns picking. And now, at three, he’s starting to actually enjoy this time.

The Washington Post recently published this article about pushing kindergarteners to read. I have my thoughts on that, but I think it starts before kindergarten. We’re guilty, sometimes, us parents. We get stressed and caught up in competition.

He/she doesn’t like books.

He/she should know all his letters and sounds by now.

What should I buy to teach my child to read?

The kid across the street is reading on his own, and he’s only four. Why isn’t my child doing that?

You’ve met my kids now. I’ve got one of each. One whose verbal skills have always been impressive, and one whose fine and gross motor skills have always been ahead of the curve (but who has a hard time sitting still).

They’re both doing just fine.

It comes.

Or it doesn’t, and you cross that bridge when you come to it.

In the meantime, I firmly believe in just plugging away. Even if it does mean you have to read the same Arthur book 1, 247,968 times.

Ask me how I know.

4 responses to “Slice of Life: When They Read and When They Don’t”

  1. Sarah Floyd says:

    Great post! My son was a “struggling” reader for years, which was confusing and worrisome for me, since he loved it when I read to him and enjoyed school, except reading. We used Hooked On Phonics (great program) for several summers in a row, and I bought him interesting books I knew he’d like, but he still lacked confidence and fluency. Finally I stumbled on the “I’ll read a page and then you read a page” technique, and his confidence sky rocketed. Now a middle schooler, he’s in Honors Language Arts! I’ve learned to trust that he’ll get “there” when he’s ready.

    I was a volunteer reading coach at his elementary school and used that same strategy with my students. It works!

  2. Jen Robinson says:

    My 4.75 year old daughter is in PreK. She “read” her first Bob book a couple of months ago. And then stopped. She’ll play rhyming games, and ask us to read to her, and dabble with writing down her own words. But she seems to be taking a break on the formal “learning to read” process. I am letting her go at her own pace. Thanks for this reassurance to parents!

    • Maria Burel says:

      My two kiddos are so totally different from each other. It will be interesting to see how he (the 3yo) develops. If there’s one thing they taught me about parenting it’s that what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other. This pretty much applies to everything about my two :p

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