A spectacular transformation took place in these parts last week. Mr. T became a reader.
Oh, for months he’s been reading words and phrases that he spots around him. Gas station signs. Comic book titles. Billboards. But he didn’t want to read books. I’d check out new easy-to-read books at the library each time we visited. And sometimes he’d want me to read one to him, and then he’d try to read a few pages on his own. But that was it.
Like his older sister was, he’s a great fan of audiobooks. He likes to take in his literature through his ears–either from his CD player or from my reading aloud to him. And listening to books has helped him develop an acute sense of story, and a vocabulary loaded with words like schism and associates and phrases like speak of the devil.
If there’s one thing you learn by the time you get to your third kid, it’s don’t push. After ruining your first child, and coming close on your second, you finally develop the faith that your kids really will learn to use a toilet, and put their faces under water at swimming lessons, and spell words in a standardized fashion. They’ll figure it out eventually, and your interference only makes it take longer–and likely obliterates all the joy and pride they’d get from doing it in their own time.
So I didn’t say much. Just kept those easy-to-read books lying around, and kept reading to him.
But last week he wandered around the kitchen chatting to me about robots or martians or something as I made dinner, and the library books we’d just checked out sat on the kitchen table. I glanced through one called, Good Night, Good Knight. Easy words. Cartoony pictures. A knight. Hmmm.
“You know, buddy,” I said. “I’ll bet you could read this book. I think you know most of these words, and if there are some you don’t know, you can just skip them.”
So he picked up the book. Read every word on the first page. Went on to the second. I stir-fried broccoli and he read aloud quietly, occasionally spelling a word aloud for me to translate. He read the whole book.
It was hard not to jump up and down and scream, “You read that whole book! I knew you could do it, I knew you could do it!” But I’ve also learned a thing or two about stealing the kids’ glow so I just looked at the glitter in his eyes, swallowed my thrill and said calmly, “Wow buddy, you read that book all by yourself!”
He was already moving on to the second book. And the next day he picked up another. And another. I find him curled up on the couch like this:
I find him reading in his room, reading in the car. I find him reading Wii manuals in the office. (Another notch in my Waldorf Guilt belt.) We need to get back to the library, quick, to load up on new books.
(As exciting as it is to watch your child begin reading, it’s a little sad, too. Mr. T has found a way into the wondrous world of books that doesn’t require me as his tour guide. Here I go again–getting all melancholic as I watch my youngest grow up.)
I’m not sure what magic made this happen so suddenly. I suppose that Good Night, Good Knight had just the right mix of intriguing subject matter and a not-too-frustrating reading level. I suppose that before that book, Mr. T didn’t believe he could read, and suddenly he proved to himself otherwise. He’s actually gone on to read several books that are much more challenging–propelled, I suppose, by his confidence in himself.
It would be easy to claim credit as the alchemist in all this, to assume that his reading happened because I suggested the right book at the right time. But the truth is, it would have happened eventually. Still, it does feel good after so much biting my tongue and waiting, to see my abracadabra inspire a transformation.
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If you’re here via the link from Homeschool.Style.Bytes., welcome! Thanks so much for visiting! Please consider leaving a comment and introducing yourself. I love to meet new folks.
And if you missed the reference Helen gave me last week, here it is. I’ve recommended this blog before–it’s a glorious combination of words and photos from homeschoolers far and wide. And, happily, in this case the words are more than mere accessories to the images.