Friday, November 8, 2013

Fingers Crossed...About Reading?

Yesterday, in the van, on route to swimming lessons, I noticed that Matthew was kinda mumbling to himself.  I couldn't see what he was doing, so I asked if everything was ok and he said that he was trying to read something.  Given that he's been such a reluctant reader, I just said "oh, ok" and left it at that.  I didn't to make a big deal of it or to distract him.

He asked if I could help him with a word and he spelled out loud the word condescending.  I helped him and asked what he was reading.  He said that he was trying to read the book that Grandma had given him the day before and which he'd forgotten to take inside the house.

Now, I happen to know that this book is well ahead of his reading fact, it is also well above grade 4 reading levels, which he's not at yet.  I was worried that he was going to get very frustrated about it because it was going to be way too hard for him to read.

So I suggested that if there were other words he wanted me to help with, that was fine.  He spent the entire fifteen minute drive to swimming on page one of that book, and asked me about eight words (like superiority and ingenuity), but I was amazed at his tenacity - that truly was a first.  And he made it through all but the last couple of lines of the page and, when I asked him what his favourite sentence on the page was, he could answer me...and volunteered that he loved how that sentence sounded.

Now, for some parents, this might not be blog-worthy.  But I have to tell you that as I sat there driving, listening to my 9-year-old attempting really hard to sound out words, and getting most of them, I had tears in my eyes.  And when he, as we pulled into the parking lot, said that he wants "so badly" to learn how to read better, those tears threatened to spill over.  I've been waiting and waiting to hear words like that...and even though his intention might not last for very long yet, the intention, the drive, is there right now.  All I said was that he was well on his way towards being an awesome reader and that I knew 100% for sure that it was going to happen for him.  I wanted to push a little at that moment, but chose not to - it's never worked before.  So all I added was that I would help him whenever he wanted it.  He said "I know Mom...thanks."

On route home later, Matthew suggested that maybe tomorrow (ie. today) we could sit in our library with that book and we could take turns reading sentences from that book.  I said "sure."  So after breakfast this morning, I'm going to suggest that we do just that...and if he's still interested and if we actually do this, I'm going to quietly make that our school for the day...forget the Math...this would be huge enough.

Crossing my fingers...


  1. This is awesome!! This is how reading 'happens'... or one way that it happens for many children... their brain has to be ready to make the connections AND they have to work hard at practicing it. Reading is actually a very very difficult activity for the human brain. One thing you might talk to Matthew about is that he is not alone and there are always challenging and new things to read, like if someone is learning a new language, or if you are learning about a new topic with lots of new vocabulary, or if I want to read a really difficult philosophy book... i have to read very slowly, many times, and look up lots of words, and maybe even ask someone for help. And I have studied for years at the university. So actually, the activity you describe him engaged in above (asking for help, wondering about words, reading slowly) are actually the tasks of a REAL reader. i love that image of him... he is a GOOD reader now. Many people are lazy readers. He is obviously not. What he is practicing will carry him through many challenging future reads!

  2. I appreciate these thoughts, Jackie, and they supplement my own. I'm going to borrow a couple of your sentences to further mention to him about reading...thank you!

    I don't know if I mentioned which book he was reading that first page of, but it was "Just William." Oh, and we did sit down yesterday/Friday morning for about twenty-five minutes and took turns reading (and deciphering) sentences, while pausing to discuss some of the concepts (so when, on the first page, Matthew read that William knew, within a 2 mile radius of home, which sweet shop proprietors added an extra sweet when the scale descended and that William would patronize only those shops and ban all others where the proprietors were stingy, and about how William upheld the superiority of quantity over quality, etc etc, Matthew and I talked about the concepts as well as the words). He smiled as he started to understand and I could tell when the meaning of something clicked in; then, when I could see that he was tiring of it, I offered to read out loud the first 1.5 pages that we'd worked through. He loved that because he could then hear how it sounded all together. I doubt we'll get through the whole book (particularly at this pace!), but I'm totally loving that our trying it is motivated entirely by him. When, last night, we went to Seth's soccer practice, Matthew was totally bummed that neither of us had thought to bring the book with us! Oh, and while at soccer, Matthew used one of the little expressions (quantity over quality) from that first page in offhand conversation with me, then looked at me with a smile to see if I'd noticed his use of the new-to-him words. Thankfully, I did notice and we shared a knowing little smile because he'd incorporated something new...which, of course, was music to my ears because it showed me that he was absorbing what he'd read and we'd talked about.

    (to be continued...blogger has notified me that I'm writing too much!!)

  3. (continuation)

    This is a bit of a red herring, but...about 6-8 months ago, Matthew and I started reading "Redwall" together. We never finished (got about 80-90 pages in) but it's one of my favourite memories of reading with him. I read it out loud (which is why this is a red herring, because it's not about Matthew doing the reading!) and it took us about 6-7 weeks to get through those 80-90 pages, reading about five days out of seven with him. There were soooo many things in that book that were well ahead of his (and sometimes my) ability to understand and we had a BLAST looking things up. I remember that the very first sentence of the book took us twenty minutes or more to get through, because we stopped four times to look something up - about abbeys, monasteries, novices, etc etc. I had my computer on the table beside me as well as an old fashioned dictionary. Whenever there was a word he didn't understand, rather than me telling him what it meant, I looked it up with him in the old fashioned dictionary and we read through definitions. When there was a concept he/we didn't understand, I used my computer to google it. I found it fascinating that he was willing to engage in that way, because it really did take a long time to work through a page and still he persisted in my reading it for those 6-7 weeks. I also observed that he slowly got used to the way things were written, so that the last 10-20 pages that we read took considerably less time than the earlier pages. I privately REALLY wanted to stay with reading it with him, but after we'd finished those pages, he tired of having to work so hard. He loved the book, though, so I'm thinking that when the "Just William" book has grown tiring, I'm going to leave "Redwall" lying around again to see if he picks up on it.

    Anyway, as always, thank you Jackie, for having these conversations with me. They are so one-sided and I wish you, too, had a blog (or better yet that we lived closer to each other!) so that I could be getting to know you, too, but I'm so enjoying this ongoing discussion. You're a real blessing in my life!!

    Now, having abandoned my children and my husband downstairs while I am sitting on the edge of the bathtub writing this (for a moment of privacy), I'd better sign off and go rejoin my crew...and maybe make some breakfast.

    Have a great weekend, Jackie! Hugs,


  4. sorry...noticed some poor grammar in the comments above...not so great at proofreading these days!!