Monday, July 22, 2013

Learning to Read: Nudging, Pushing and Pimp Slaps

Both of my daughters crossed that magical line into reading "fluency" at around the same time...each in the second half of their 2nd grade year.  I know there was YEARS of build up, but still, it seemed to happen overnight. Like magic. Their individual journeys to get there were vastly different but after partnering, guiding, facilitating and then just plain old staying out of the way, I felt pretty confident that my youngest, a boy, would find his own way too, in his own time. 

 And yet...

He didn't seem to be as interested in the whole reading thing.  Being read *to*, yes! But not reading for himself.

Being 6 and not interested didn't bother me.  Not a bit.

Being 7 and not interested didn't bother me.  Not really.

Being 8 and not interested didn't...wait, that started to bother me.

So I tried a little bit of extra "nudging".  Nudging that was not well received by my son.  Now, I'm a big fan of a well placed and gentle nudge but it should be noted that continuing to offer unwelcome nudging is nudging no longer.  It becomes pushing.  Ack.  I knew better and yet here I was - pushing.  So I backed off.  Well, let's be honest here. I backed off after I went ahead and made a bit of a mess of things.  But I backed off.  I took a deep breath and continued on - continued to read to him, answer his questions about what things said in his video games and on television, birthday cards, signs and books he would look through.  At night when I read aloud to him before bed I would still offer to read with him if he wanted. Sometimes. Sometimes not.  And sometimes he wanted to.  And sometimes not so much.  And then were times when I didn't offer, that *he* asked.  A book that seemed to click for him, that prompted him to ask more nights than not to read to me, was The Children's Story Bible.

It was at this point in the whole process that this 8 year old of mine informed me one night as we were reading together, that he reads all the time during the day.  All the time.

Really...?? The schoolish part of me (a very teeny tiny part but still there to rear her disdainful head from time to time) clucked her tongue and said, "I don't see any of that going on and if I don't see it and hear it and measure it, then it didn't happen. And besides, whatever it is he's doing is NOT the same thing as sitting down with ME and *practicing* reading."

I promptly pimp slapped the schoolish part of me.  Hard.  She didn't even see it coming. 

And then I listened to my young son as he matter of factly told me how he reads everywhere we go.  How when nobody is watching him or asking him questions, he reads signs.  Street signs, signs in restaurants, at the library, businesses we drive by and stop in...signs EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME.

I smiled and told him how awesome that was. And that one day soon he'd be able to read anything and everything without even having to try, he just *would* - just like his older sisters.  Of this, he was still a tad doubtful.

After that conversation I began to pay a bit more attention.  I discreetly watched him at moments throughout the day. Watched how observant he was, noticed the times where he stood looking at a sign or a cereal box...quietly, sometimes mouthing the words to himself.  And the unschooler in me went ahead and called forth that schoolish part (the part I'd pimp slapped with relish into a dark, isolated corner).  "See? Do you see that?  That's how it happens.  Shame on you for making me doubt, for making me not see the full value and beauty in *that*."

My son is 9 now and will be a 4th grader this fall.  He enjoys reading shorter books with lots of pictures or illustrations thrown in here and there.  As his skills grow, so does his confidence in himself.  The lure of food coupons and cheap toys through our local library's summer reading program, has prompted yet another burst in his reading fluency.  So now at night before I read to him, he'll lay there reading a Mr. Putter and Tabby book.

I just sit there with him, keeping him company, waiting my turn to read to him.  Sometimes he reads out loud to me. Other times he reads silently to himself, occasionally turning the book around and pointing to a word he can't figure out. 

The schoolish part of me would make him sound it out, figure it out for himself.   But she's cowering in the corner - where she belongs.  And the unschooler in me simply answers my son's question. :)