Ruminations on Reading

I remember clearly the afternoon last summer when Henry quietly tiptoed into my bedroom and whispered, “Mom, can you read to me?” We were on vacation, Dad and Sam were already sacked out on the couch for some afternoon zzz’s, and I was in the process of tucking the girls in for their naps when Henry tried to unobtrusively catch my attention.

“I can’t right now, honey. Can you read to yourself while you wait for me?”

Whisper-sob. “But I don’t know how to read!”

After I finished with his sisters and we were able to cuddle on the couch with the books of his choice, I remember asking him if he wanted to learn how to read and promising him that I’d teach him how as soon as we got home.

And literally a week after we returned home, Henry held me to my promise. So I dug in my closet and came up with the Kindergarten Hooked on Phonics kit I had purchased on sale at some earlier date.

It looked simple enough. An intro to a word ending page, a review page, and then a story or book to reinforce the ending just learned. A sticker chart to mark his progress. A CD to guide him through it if he didn’t feel like being coached by Mom.

I had complete confidence in the program. We were making great progress. Henry started to balk a little at the longer review pages, but we’d try to make games out of them to keep things fun. Then he started to balk at reading time during school time. We were SO CLOSE to finishing that I pushed and bribed a little to get those last few stickers on the chart before we’d take a negotiated break.

He was really doing well, so I was surprised at his vehement “I hate reading and I’m never going to read again!” reaction a week following the completion of Kindergarten reading, when I suggested starting the next level. So I backed off a little. Kind of confused. Not sure where to go from here. But definitely not about to push it while he had such strong feelings.

That was early December.

Since then, I’ve been grateful that we’re educating at home. Very grateful. If we were in the public system, regardless of how he felt about it, he would be expected to keep up with his peers and the lesson plans. He would be set up to develop a major dislike of reading, perhaps one that he’d never get over.

I’ve also been grateful that we can try different things until the spark is ignited again. I’m grateful that we can take our time with it. If he’s not ready to read for another year, it’ll be okay. If he’s not ready to read for another four years, it’ll still be okay.

The funny thing is, it’s just the act of sitting down with a book and asking him to read that makes him park his heels. He doesn’t have any qualms about other reading-type activities. He still loves to have us read to him. He likes it when I give him words to spell while I’m cooking dinner and he can figure out how to spell them with the letter magnets on the fridge. He still likes his handwriting workbook and learning how to form the letters correctly.

So I have confidence that the reading will come–in his time, and on his terms, maybe, but it will come.

I just want him to enjoy reading.

I found a book at the library this week called “I Don’t Like to Read” by Nancy Carlson. A little mouse named Henry doesn’t like to read. The first half of the book was almost an exact mirror to our Henry. In fact, he kept saying, “I say that!” or nodding as we read. The book ends happily, just as I know our story will end, too.

I’m so glad this journey is happening at home.

2 Responses to “Ruminations on Reading”

  • Shanny

    Mindy, I could tell almost exactly the same story but with my second child. My first had a few bad days but we got her reading well, incident free. She is an absolute avid reader now and even read the trilogy of the Lord of the Rings last year when she was 10. Right now she is working her way through the Work and the Glory Series and is about half way through and loving it.

    My second child however…was very similar to your son. She was so eager to begin reading and we progressed well until we were nearing the end of the programme and the stories started getting longer. Needless to say, we BOTH came to dread phonics. It came to be associated with lots of stress, lots of tears on both sides and no progress. I was so sad when I remembered how she had been so eager to learn to read in the beginning. And I too, have come to appreciate that she is not stuck in the school system, being labelled as learning disadvantaged and then believing that about herself for the rest of her life and being treated like that for the rest of her life.

    I backed off for a whole year. I wanted her to forget the misery associated with learning to read as much as possible. Finally, she began to come to me and say ‘Look Mum, I read this page of this Doctor Seuss book all by myself’. Then she began to ask to read a verse during family scripture time.

    After a few months of this, I gently suggested we start phonics again. We went right back to where it was very very easy for her, so she could feel confident and fill in any gaps in her memory. We covered 5 lessons at a time because it was so easy for her and she could whizz through them and was enjoying the success.

    Then one day she decided she wanted to jump ahead a bit. She found the story she wanted to read – and I think it is the perfect place for her at this time – it is easy enough that she is having success and hard enought that she has to concentrate. This time around I feel like there is a difference. First time around, she had to work hard on decoding nearly every word, this time around she is much more fluent and her decoding is much quicker. I believe that she is READY now.

    We are still working on it obviously but I can see how things are progressing in the right manner now and I have definitely learnt to NOT push your children to read. She is 9 years old now but I know that if I don’t make her hate reading, she will one day catch up and hopefully come to love reading, just like myself and my husband and my eldest daughter.

    • Mindy

      THANK YOU so much for sharing your experience with me. It helps me sleep a little better at night to know that your story had a happy ending. 😉 And good to know that yes, everyone comes to it in their own time. I will press on with patience!

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