I Can Read!

My oldest child has loved books for a very long time. In fact, for her whole life. Before she was born, I didn’t know what to look for in board books and children’s tales, all I knew were classics from my own childhood but the kid lit world had exploded since then and there was so much to discover.

To get me on the path of knowledge, I joined a book club, entirely devoted to reading and reviewing picture books. Through it, I discovered many fantastic books like this, this and this, as well as a whole children’s publisher that I really liked.

Trips to local libraries always result in massive acquisitions.  My kids pick books by themes of interest (rockets, trains, nature, school) and we stockpile books, which temporarily reside on shelves, already buckling from weight.

I know I am not alone in the abundance of children’s books always present in our house and the prolific number DH and I expose our children to. After all, modeling is the most powerful tool parents can offer their children and we’ve made it our goal to model with books.

In short, there is a never ending supply of children’s books around our house at all times and both kids relish sitting down on their own, a good book in his or her lap.

From the time our daughter could speak, she’s also been “reading.” The problem is, she doesn’t know that she isn’t actually reading, she assumes that looking at the pictures, spinning a tale and speaking out loud is what it’s all about…imagine that: reading=imagination.

I haven’t pushed my kids to read before they need to. I am a strong believer in allowing things to happen when the time is right or necessary. In many Scandinavian and some European countries, children aren’t taught reading in school until age 7 and studies have shown (though I’ve failed to find a good link to one) that when kids start reading too early, the end result can be a loss of interest in books rather than becoming bibliophiles.

When our daughter started kindergarten two months ago, I knew the time was right, she was ready to start reading and a new world would open before her. I was sure she shared this goal for herself.

So you can imagine our surprise when my husband and I recently visited her school for curriculum night. I noticed a bulletin board with the title “My Hopes and Dreams for Kindergarten.” On it were pinned pictures that each student had drawn answering the question “In Kindergarten, I want to learn…”

I eagerly scanned the boards, looking for our daughter’s page. There were many pictures depicting the response “how to read.” I was sure our child would be among this group, surely reading was her greatest love; second only to barking commands at others.

In the bottom row, third from last, I found her page. On it she had drawn a pink stick figure with a dress and bobbed purple hair…clearly a self portrait. There also was a circle with four numbers in it, most certainly a clock. Her hope and dream for kindergarten: “to learn how to tell time.”

Her goal both surprised and disappointed me. I knew her main motivation for learning how to tell time was born out of her desire to know how many minutes remain each day from the time she returns home from school until the start of the one TV show I let her watch.

When I questioned her about this goal later, wondering why reading hadn’t topped her list, she gave a response both heartwarming and innocent. She simply stated that she put learning how to tell time as her goal because she already knows how to read…

My surge of joy was akin to knowing my child still believed in Santa Clause AND the Tooth Fairy, despite the cynics and older kids at school. But I also knew our journey to literacy might be a bumpy one.

So we’re taking it one day at a time. These days, when we go to the library, in addition to the books she picks out, I also add beginner readers to our pile. Now, most days after school—as we’re waiting for the clock to tick down the minutes until Wild Kratts starts—we sit together, she and I, level 1 reader in hand, and she reads to me.

It is time filled with moments of frustration and struggles and a sometimes also resistance but in it she shows great fortitude, determination and desire. I know she’s ready, I know she wants to learn. It’s all just a matter of time.


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Auntie Boo
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 13:07:25

    What a great post! Choked up a little bit reading it. It’s SO much fun to listen to her “read”.

    I can’t remember when I *first* started reading, but I think I started pretty early too… and as you know, I still love to read 🙂 So I wouldn’t worry, I think she’ll always love to read too, she has such good examples set by you and DH!


    • growingmuses
      Nov 04, 2011 @ 13:59:15

      Thanks Auntie Boo, you’ve always been such a willing audience for her fantastic tales and tumultuous “boat” rides. You’re the best auntie. I hope she enjoys reading to herself as much as she enjoys “reading” out-loud to others…


  2. slightlywonky
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 13:15:27

    SO cute. I’d love to have seen the self portrait too. She means business, and will likely be running the country someday. She’s got my vote. 🙂


    • growingmuses
      Nov 04, 2011 @ 13:33:26

      Good idea, as soon as it comes down from the bulletin board, I’ll try to scan it and put it in. Then maybe I’ll send her to you for some art classes ;o)


  3. Heather Kelly
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 13:17:24

    Wow–the learning to read thing…it can be so frustrating. I am with you–it’s not a situation that it is okay to push on. I feel that kids can bring their intelligence into questions if they can’t read at the same time as their peers, and feel less smart, if they aren’t reading with the crowd.

    My eldest taught himself to read the summer before kindergarten. I watched so closely to see *how* a child learns to read. But with him, it was literally over night. He went to bed not able to read (and so frustrated), and woke up stringing along sentences. He was reading middle grade books to himself in kindergarten!

    My middle child is not a visual learner, and so prefers for me to read things aloud. He struggled with reading throughout kindergarten, and didn’t learn, really, until the end of 1st grade. Which the school (thankfully) considered on track.

    My daughter (I think) will have no trouble learning to read during this, her kindergarten, year. But being the third child, I do little with her about reading–other than reading aloud to her at bedtime (for a good solid hour, a chapter out of a middle grade book), so I hope the school is giving her what she needs in the learning-to-read department.

    I love it when my kids are old enough to bring books with them and read while we do errands and during down time. It’s my favorite hurdle for them to cross!!


  4. growingmuses
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 13:48:28

    What an insightful comment. Thanks for sharing your experience Heather. I’m glad to know, among my literary and education focused friends, we’re on track. I have another friend in CT whose kids were both reading at advanced (MG) levels by the age of four. I know that’s sort of an exception but it’s nice to be reminded so.

    With our social and exuberant 5yo, I’m not so convinced we’ll ever reach an age where a book will keep her quiet and occupied over talking without end to the people around her :s


  5. Susan
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 14:51:04

    I remember when we visited school before my daughter started kindergarten. The principal said the question he gets asked the most is “Will you teach my child to read in kindergarten?” He said this: Some children will come to school knowing how to read, some children will be reading this year, and some next. If a child gets to 2nd grade and still doesn’t know how to read, then we’ll “teach” them how. We knew she was reading in Feb. that year when from the backseat of the car at a stop sign she said, “No turn on right.” . For me, I really resonated with the books piling up. If I don’t have 2-3 at the ready for me to ready, I break into a cold sweat.


    • growingmuses
      Nov 04, 2011 @ 18:57:26

      I wish I could remember half as much that happened to us yesterday as you remember from yesteryear! I always love your recollections of A’s school days, I hope I will remember as clearly P & E’s. You’ll have to come by soon so we can have a book reading…maybe you and E can join a book club together ;o)


  6. cecile
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 15:42:17

    It’s a great post, Kyla. I’m sure she will learn soon… it’s funny, Chiara has been pretending the same thing, I’m reading, when she is looking at pictures or telling the story by heart. We do like you, a lot of level one books, it’s at the same time great and frustrating ! You know what she put on her goals? Learn to tie my shoes.
    Hey, we’ll be in Massachussetts in 2 weeks, would you be around for coffee or play ? That would be great to see you.


  7. growingmuses
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 18:59:26

    Cecile, we would LOVE to see you! let’s connect via e-mail and make a date. We miss you very much. How is the Montessori system going for the kids? How do you find it compared with FCC? Can’t wait to catch up more in person and thanks for your comments.


  8. Anita Miller
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 12:21:14

    I came from Heather’s blog! You’ve got a great place here!


  9. DH
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 22:07:08

    It is a joy and an amazement to witness the leaps and bounds children can make in such a short period of time. For example, 1 week after this post…it’s evident that words and letters are flying through her head as she sees words she is able to read (picture the CGI from “A Brilliant Mind” with Russell Crowe).

    Last week, en route to adopt our newest family members…she belts out “There it is Daddy!” Daddy: “What is it?” Her joyful reply, “Pet World! I see the sign over there!!” (Note: sign has no logo/image…just words.)

    Hmmmm…should I be pleased or concerned that one of her first store signs she could read was “Pet World”; only time will tell. Only kidding…mostly. As far as store signs/names go, there are FAR worse taro cards of where true interests (and future $$) lie…i.e. “Nordstrom”, “Pottery Barn Kids”, or “Starbucks”. [Ok, had to throw that last jab in. My disdain for Starbucks is well documented: urlm.in/jzjw ]

    All kidding aside, I’m truly excited we have a fledgling reader in our midst! All youth have “beautiful minds” – and literacy is one of the lifelong skills to ensure the world is their oyster.


    • growingmuses
      Nov 21, 2011 @ 14:55:32

      I’m hard pressed to do anything more than agree with your comment and thank you for your thoughtful words. The road to literacy is an important and valiant struggle but when I informed her just the other day that there are many grown ups in the world who can’t read or write, I think it made her even more intent on achieving her goal. Literacy is a beautiful thing indeed!


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