Reading, reading, and more reading…

Reading with my kids is an activity that I have always enjoyed. From the time they were little toddlers and could barely sit through a book, to the age Josie is now where we take turns reading pages to each other. But there is an in-between time in there that is difficult. It’s that learning-to-read time. I’m not even sure difficult is the right word because it’s pretty much torture.

Right around kindergarten/first grade they are going to school and learning letters and sounds and all kinds of new things and they are so excited! But then they have to start putting those letters and sounds together. It’s hard and they need a lot of help and supervision. Maybe this is fun if you are a teacher, or have the patience of a saint, but if you’re just a normal human, it’s the worst. Pronouncing c-a-t can take anywhere from 2-3 minutes and you wait as long as you can before just blurting it out so you can move on to the next three letter word.

Something that adds to this misery is the reading log that the teacher sends home. “Read or have your child read to you for 20 minutes, every night, then record the book title and how many minutes you read”. 20 minutes? When helping a five-year-old read, this feels close to an hour, or also eternity. Lots of deep breaths are required. And so sometimes you make it the full 20 minutes and you feel like you deserve some sort of medal. But then sometimes you just can’t and you wait until your little one is fast asleep before logging their reading minutes and you might fudge it just a bit, strictly for survival.

You repeat this ritual every afternoon/evening and pray to the dear Lord that the teacher comes up with some new system that teaches your child to fluently read before you lose your mind. And then somehow by some miracle it clicks. Your little one gets it. The sounds begin to form easier and they aren’t frustrated anymore because Yay! They can read! It may only be two pages of Dr. Seuss’ Hop on Pop but your baby can read, for crying out loud! You made it. You survived. Yes, you deserve a medal.

The trouble with this stage is now they want to read everything “all by myself”. So you try to let them, but it’s still slow-going. You make clever suggestions like “how about you read a page and then I’ll read a page”, but they don’t go for it because they are just so happy that they can read and they want to show you how great they are at it. And so you listen, and wait, and help, and take deep breaths, and pray. They eventually get faster, I promise.

They reach the magical stage where they can read all on their own, silently. This is beautiful. They can now read well enough that you can understand the whole thought that they’re reading. This means you can take turns reading and actually enjoy it. And you’d better enjoy it because this stage lasts what feels like about two seconds and then they just do it all on their own and don’t want to hear your voice reading to them anymore.

Once they’ve hit this stage you’ll now feel the urge to go back and read through Hop on Pop while you tear up and reminisce about the days of teaching your baby to read, forgetting how miserable it was in the moment. Because that’s what we parents like to do.

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