On Reading

I have just finished reading an article – a very timely one I might add. It seems like every time I get that itch to force my kid to sit down and start focusing on reading, something like this crops up. It’s so very hard at times, to be doing what we do, and to know that it goes against everything that the majority of people believe. To give your kids the space to learn when they are ready to learn, and not buy into the pressure of rushing them. To fight back that clawing panic that you’re doing them a disservice.

And yet, I know that when you do relax and let things unfold at a natural pace, great things happen.

Ivy enjoyed learning to read in her first year at school, but it quickly got too hard for her and she hated it. Loathed it. Rejected it wholly with force. She wouldn’t even let me read chapter books to her, because it reminded her that she couldn’t do it yet.

If you press a child hard to do something when she is really developmentally unable to do it — I made that mistake more than once, and our schools make it every day — the psychological shutdown that occurs is catastrophic. Simply catastrophic. Let me repeat this: when you push a child to do something she simply developmentally can not do, you create a profound belief that (a) I hate this; (b) I can’t do this; (c) I will never be able to do this, and (d) There’s something wrong with me. – from A Thousand Suns

So we read a lot of picture books. We made up stories of our own. We took ALL the pressure off and never mentioned reading to her. I got graphic novels out of the library thinking that perhaps that might be a gateway, she thrived on those for a little bit. And then, Lauren told her that I had cried at the end of one of the books we’d read together, and Ivy desperately wanted to know WHY. What had happened in the book that had driven me to tears?

She asked Lauren if she could read the book, she took herself off, and she read the whole thing and then we talked about the ending, how it was sweet and lovely, and we were so pleased that all the puppies found a home. And then she read another book, and another, and even though she isn’t taking her meds now, she hasn’t stopped reading since. She sometimes reads four chapter books a week, and I KNOW that it’s because I let her take that breather, forget about her reading experiences at school and come to it again on her own terms.

Coupled with the research which shows the following, I think I just need to step back and let my kids be kids. They are starting to read, words here and there, words that have meanings to them. I want my kids to LOVE reading, to love story the same way that I do, so I’ll do anything to foster that love.

By the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the children who started at 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later – Article link here.

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5 thoughts on “On Reading

  1. I love what you have written here, and the article you linked to is great as well. I often wrestle with that burning desire to force the kids to follow the neat, age appropriate program I have developed for them, knowing full well that forcing them against their will to do anything only ever produces bad repurcussions. Your comment that if we can just ‘relax and let things unfold at a natural pace, great things happen’ is something I need constant reminding of. Thanks for posting this.

    • You’re so welcome 🙂 I know I’m going to have to remind myself over and over again about this one. If we want our kids to love learning, love reading and writing and exploring the world, we have to step back. But that is SO hard when we’ve been conditioned to do things ‘the way it’s done’, even when it’s only been done that way for a fairly short period of time lol

  2. A perfect article, Cassie. It’s the exact reason why I didn’t start writing creatively until last year. Unfortunately, I think we (schools) put a lot of children off reading by doing this, and it’s beyond wonderful to read this post. Like I’m actually teary. You’ve got this teaching thing in the bag. Kudos to you.

    • Aw, now you made me teary!! Thank you so much 🙂 It can be really hard to go against the grain, especially when we have friends with kids in school who are constantly trying to compare. I just know that if I can stick to my guns, hold the space for my kids to grow and learn, they’ll come out better for it.

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