My daughter, Lucia, was a striving reader. I use this term, inspired by Stephanie Harvey, to replace “struggling” due to the negative connotation it carries. From a very early age, Lucia loved books and we read together constantly but when it came time to reading on her own, she struggled and as a result, her confidence plummeted. By the second half of kindergarten, Lucia qualified for Academic Intervention Services which she continued to receive through first grade.
I did what most mothers do, I worried. As teachers do, I pulled out all of my tricks. I quickly saw that my years of teaching reading was not going to help her. Whoever said that teaching your own child is a totally different experience than teaching students was right on! The last thing Lucia wanted to do after a long day of school was work on strategies to figure out words. She didn’t listen. She didn’t try. She complained. I lost patience. I didn’t want her to see reading as a chore or something to “work on” so I stepped away and trusted that she would find joy in reading in her own time.
The Shift: The Weird School Series and a Book Lamp
Lucia’s relationship with reading shifted when two things happened. One was that a library aide read aloud books from the Weird School Series. Lucia loved them and soon started bringing them home. Again with my teacher hat on, I checked the book’s guided reading level only to discover that it was about 2 levels above Lucia’s “independent level.” Still, I backed away. If she was devouring these books and spending hours each night reading, they must be just right for her. Who was I to say otherwise?!
The second thing that turned Lucia into a reader was that my partner gave her his book lamp. She eagerly climbed into bed, clipped the lamp onto her Weird School book and turned out the lights. Suddenly reading became something special that she could do in bed at night when her little sister slept in the bunk bed below. Again to cite my hero Stephanie Harvey, Lucia moved from being a striving reader to a thriving reader.
On the first day of third grade, Lucia raced up the stairs in our house, plopped herself on the couch, excitedly took out her self-selected book from her backpack and began reading. She was completely self-directed and motivated to read.
While I credit Lucia’s wonderful teachers for giving her the skill of reading, it was the right book and having the space and freedom to make reading her own that made her a joyful reader.