A Tale of Three Readers
This week, I had my first conference with T’s kindergarten teacher. After our initial greeting, her first question was an astonished, “So when did T start reading?”
T started reading at four, just as her older brother did. T’s younger brother, who turned four in September, is on the verge of unlocking the code. They are all similar, and yet different. Today, I’d like to tell you a tale of three readers.
Reader #1: Leo
I can remember it as if it happened yesterday. There was Leo, who had just turned 3-years-old, with a book in his lap. He had been “reading” Dinosarumpus to me while I tidied the house. By age 3, Leo could recite innumerable books verbatim. However, on this day, upon finishing the book, Leo dissolved into a sobbing mess of a boy. Angrily, he bellowed:
I can’t understand the letters! I know what the pages say, but I can’t read the letters! WHEN WILL I READ THE LETTERS?!
I stopped what I was doing, flabbergasted. What had happened? Where did this come from? Why did he feel this way? Quickly, I scooped him up in my arms and hugged him. I told him that he was reading exactly the way he should be for a 3-year-old and that, in time, he’d grow to understand the letters. Until then, it was my job to read the letters and the only thing he needed to do was to sit back and enjoy the reading ride.
The whole time I was comforting him, my mind was racing, searching for causes. We are a family of book lovers. Our home is filled with overflowing book baskets and dog-eared pages. We enjoy reading, but I certainly did not expect my 3-year-old to read independently.
How could a 3-year-old put this much pressure on himself?
Reader #2: My sweet T
One night, as I was putting my little poppies to bed, I discovered 3 1/2-year-old T at the foot of her bed, crying. When I asked her what was wrong, her legs started swinging like crazy and she tossed Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus on the floor in a fit of rage before throwing her body back full force. As she did so, she hollered:
WHEN WILL I UNDERSTAND CHAPTER BOOKS?!
Oh boy. Here we go again.
I snuggled up next to her and put my arms around her. I told her that she was reading exactly the way he should be for a 3-year-old and that, in time, she’d grow to understand chapter books. Until then, it was my job to read the books and the only thing she needed to do was to sit back and enjoy the reading ride. Quietly, she sniffed:
Leo reads chapter books, and it looks like lots of fun.
I told her that, yes, it is fun to read chapter books. Then, I told her a story about a 3-year-old boy I knew who threw a fit when he couldn’t read the letters in Dinosaurumpus. This story restored her smile and helped her to realize that reading is a journey and that her brother didn’t read chapter books at three either. She’d get there in time, but until then, she should relax and enjoy great books.
Reader #3: Seuss
It’s not fair that everyone reads but me.
We had been enjoying what we call a book-palooza. A book-palooza is what happens when you’ve returned to your house after borrowing your weight in library books. Our family room looked like a book bomb had gone off and yet our house was filled with calm. Leo and T were lost in their own piles of book goodness while I read quietly with Seuss on the couch. Seuss looked up at me with sad brown eyes and asked:
When will I read books by myself?
Anyone who reads this site already knows that Seuss is the Ambassador of Joy. He wasn’t bellowing like 3-year-old Leo had, nor was he hollering like 3-year-old T had, but the sentiment was the same. He was sad because he wanted to unlock the code and read independently.
He’s come a long way on his journey. Check out this adorable video of Seuss “reading” when he was 2-years-old:
Three different readers, three different paths:
My children are three very different and interesting human beings. As such, they had three separate reading journeys.
Leo’s path was zero to sixty: he just woke up one day at age four and read an entire book to me. Leo was oblivious that his reading journey was different from that of his peers. He was completely unaware of which friends could read and which friends could not. He happily read books to the class when asked, and continues to read aloud to groups when asked to do so.
T’s path was more typical: from board books to BOB books to early readers to chapter books. And yet, T unlocked the code at age four, just as her older brother had. Unlike her older brother, T was highly sensitive to the fact that she could read when her friends could not. Until very recently, she would hide her reading ability in certain circles. She always told me that she was afraid her friends would “feel bad” if they knew she could read. I even recall one afternoon last winter when she pretended that she couldn’t read anymore at home. When I asked her why, she replied, “Seuss can’t read yet. I don’t want to hurt his feelings.”
T feels most comfortable reading aloud to babies, younger children, dolls, and pets.
Our furry beast of a dog, Finnegan, is the most well-read dog in town!
The common thread: desire
It’s been over four years since the day Leo had his Dinosaurumpus meltdown, and I’ve come to realize something during that time. What Leo was conveying to me that day was not about pressure, it was about desire. It wasn’t that he felt pressure to learn to read, but rather he was sharing with me a deep desire to unlock the reading code.
I have three different kids with three different reading journeys and yet there is a common thread: desire to read.
We have one little reader left on the journey to unlocking the code. At age four, he’s right on the cusp, and he’ll get there soon, just as his older siblings did. I’m certain of this because he has that same desire.
Now it’s your turn… tell me about the reading journeys in your family. Share here. I love hearing from you!
This post has been a part of the October 2015 Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop: Discovering the Depth and Breadth of Giftedness. Please click the image below to keep hopping!
Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is co-founder of Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is also founder of the Family Book Club at My Little Poppies, a fantastic community of book-loving parents and the Gameschool Community at My Little Poppies, a vibrant community of gameschoolers.
Cait is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool and GeekMom. Her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, and Scary Mommy. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram