On Growing a Reader

When E. was in the second half of junior kindergarten, he started to learn to read. His JK teacher missed that fact (as was obvious from E’s final report card), but Q. and I noticed. That fall, E. started senior kindergarten, where all of his classroom instruction was in French. Although it was never explicitly spelled out to the parents, it was clear that English reading fluency was something that needed to be developed at home.

Despite significant resistance from E., we instituted a routine where he had to read to us for ten minutes every day in order to earn his screen time.

We did this the entire year.

I spent a LOT of time at the public library that year, finding readers that were the right level for his abilities, as well as ones that were more of a challenge. I’d change the readers every couple of weeks. When we found one that worked well, I’d scour the shelves for books by the same author.

When E.’s Granny came to visit us, in October of 2016, E. was reading at level D or E on the guided reading level scale. We liked Olivier Dunrea’s books about Gossie and Gertie and Ollie the Stomper. He was able to sight read Busy Busy Train (from the Wonder Wheels series) while she was visiting.

E. would get very easily frustrated.

He would fling himself around on the couch, or race off into the kitchen.

He would complain and yell and protest and whine and sulk.

Eventually, he would calm down enough to continue.

And so it went, ten minutes a day, weekly trips to the library, new books in his basket.

At some point, it all clicked.

E. developed enough fluency that reading became fun instead of frustrating.

He started sitting on the floor in the library, reading through the books before deciding whether or not to take them out.

He started disappearing to his room “just to relax” on the weekends, where we’d find him an hour later still immersed in a book.

He started reading books at lunchtime, in the bathroom, while waiting for dinner to be ready.

It made my heart so happy.

There is nothing I like better than disappearing into a good book. I often read while walking somewhere (carefully and while remembering to look both ways before I cross the street!). Reading is a major source of comfort and a way to control my anxiety, and it has been for as long as I can remember. I’ve always, always hoped that E. would love reading, and I held on to that hope all through the daily battles where it felt like we were both banging our heads against a brick wall.

I wish I’d taken better notes of how it happened, because I can’t pinpoint exactly where it all came together. The books just gradually got longer and longer, with more words and more complex sentences on each page. I do know that by this past August, E was reading at level M or N on the guided reading level scale. He read (and loved) the Ivy and Bean chapter books. We often read them together, but it was clear that he was capable of reading them independently (and that he’d been reading ahead during his book time before turning out his light in the evenings).

Currently he’s reading The Magic Tree House series. He also loves nonfiction. When we drove up to the cottage over the Thanksgiving weekend, he spent the entire trip reading a book about the Titanic (and you have no idea how excited I am that he seems to no longer get motion sick in the car).

E. generally is very quick with language- another mum told me a couple of weeks ago that her son told her that E. was “the best in the class at speaking French”, so I’m quite certain most of this success stems from his own abilities and from developmental readiness. This isn’t meant to be a “how to teach your kid to read” kind of post.

It’d be nice to think, though, that all those hours at the library choosing exactly the right books, and all those hours spent listening to him read (or helping him work through his frustration so that he could read), made a difference.




Filed under Books, E.- the seventh year, Grade One

5 responses to “On Growing a Reader

  1. That is fantastic! I love seeing a kid with their nose in a book :). Isaac has been seriously struggling with reading, as we’ve been dealing with the brain inflammation from PANS (triggered by Lyme/Babesia). For the longest time, he truly wasn’t developmentally ready…probably wasn’t until May or June of this past year that he hit all the check marks for reading readiness, but the severe brain inflammation caused him to lose his letters and numbers almost overnight back in January. He had to relearn the names and sounds of the letters, and it was extremely frustrating for him and absolutely devastating for me to see him struggle so much with something he’s known since he was 3 or 4. We work at a gentle pace now – one or two lessons a week is all he can handle – and he is now reading simple sentences. It’s hard not to push him faster, but his OT and doc both agree that when his brain is healthy, learning will come and there’s no benefit to stressing him out right now…so we follow his cues and give him as much as he can handle. As someone who always had her nose in a book as a kid, I truly hope he one day can find the same enjoyment from reading. If his love of audiobooks is any indication, I think he will! I guess we just wait and see.

  2. This post makes my heart happy too. 🙂

  3. Turia

    @Sarah- that is so hard and so heartbreaking, for you and for Isaac. I think you’re doing all you can do to support him and work at his own pace. He will get there eventually! And if he loves audiobooks, I bet he will love reading too. There is something so magical about the world it opens up for them.

  4. Pingback: Read Less, Please | Res Cogitatae

  5. Pingback: Roadmap for a Reader | Res Cogitatae

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