Photo: Ursa Minor was a pro at his follow-up x-ray and exam today! I am so proud of him and how gracefully he has handled all of this! We celebrated his awesome morning with late morning pancakes and french toast at my favorite cafe in town. Maple syrup and lemonade to wash it down? Oh, the child’s palate!
I went into this year of kindergarten with the full expectation that Ursa Major would not be a reader by the end of the school year. It wasn’t my goal at all, and I put very little energy into thinking about it. I have fully embraced the philosophy that kindergarten is the opportunity for kids to learn the social ins and outs of being at school, working with other kiddos and getting to know how to navigate the world with other adults in charge. Any academic progress is a bonus in my point of view. Yes, I was fierce about which school he should go to. Yes, I worried myself sick about him getting into full-day. But that was all for the long-term vision rather than expectations of short-term outcomes.
In other words: No pressure, bro. If you’re reading, great. If you’re not, great.
I recognize that early childhood literacy is essential, and that’s why we’ve been reading to our boys since Day 1. They have a bookshelf in their room that is full to capacity and then some. I have never had a doubt that either of my boys would become readers, so I’ve never sought to put any pressure on the skill. Pressure is the number one way to make them hate it. The only thing I did do was make sure that Major was “read ready” by his first day of school: he knew his alphabet, he could identify letters by their shapes, he understood that all letters make a sound and he could identify that letters grouped together make words. These are the building blocks of reading and I took those building blocks seriously. Once you have that, reading will come when it comes.
I guess that’s why I’m so pleasantly surprised and excited that both of my boys are reading. Thanks to work on “sight words” in school, Major can easily identify words like “the” “a” “I” “can” “me” “my” and others in text, and that really helps make books at his level more accessible. He’s moving beyond memorizing a book and connecting the words to the memory and is now able to look at a page, recognize the words for what they are, and read them out loud. It’s amazing. It’s like magic. I can’t describe it any other way.
Minor, seeing what his brother can do and trying his best to emulate, has pushed himself into the memorizing stage. There are books that we read often enough that he can recite them without much looking, but now that I’m reading more deliberately and pointing out words and letters, he is starting to make the connection between the words that he hears and the words that he sees. The magic here is watching his little brain quickly leap into identification. If he isn’t full-fledged reading by the end of the summer, he certainly will be soon after the school year starts. That child is… incredible. Seriously.
I’m sitting here amazed because once again the boys and their growth has changed the flow of the day. Bedtime used to be my time to show off and tell stories. Now the boys are in on the act and they want to know where words are on the page. That, of course, makes bedtime a lot slower! It also changes the types of books we read: we’re reading a few chapters Captain Underpants a night just for the fun of storytelling, we’re reading a very easy book like Piggie & Elephant together so they can flex their reading muscles and then we are reading something in between to challenge them a bit.
Tonight, we read All the World, which is one of my absolute favorites to read to the boys. It’s a bit sappy for them now, so they don’t let me read it all the time, but tonight I discovered how perfect it is for them in this stage. The book has enough repetition of words (“All” “world” “you” “me”) but has plenty of new words that are great for practicing their sounding out skills (“boat” “husk” “pot” “tummy”). It was like we all three experienced the book for the first time tonight. I’m pleasantly surprised by this moment of rediscovery!
There is so much to look forward to. As long as I don’t get ahead of myself! My job now is to let them explore, gently exhibiting good behaviors and guiding only as necessary. Only they can make themselves love reading. They must choose reading. They must decide that they love to read. I simply can’t force it, even if I want to!
On my way out their room tonight, I said out loud, “Oh, I just can’t wait to tell Great Grandy about this!”
It was Major who caught me. “What? How are you going to do that?”
I had to think about it for a moment and then remember. I’m so ok until I’m just not ok. So many milestones that would mean so very much to her are always just around the corner. Her birthday is coming up on the 4th and I’m doing my best to get ready for it.
It’s the last day of May and I just can’t believe half of the year is gone. What in the world happened? And is it a good thing that 6 months have come and gone so quickly or not? I could probably make convincing arguments for both sides. I wonder how you feel about it, Dear Reader!
See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.