And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. Isaiah 54:13 KJV

Saturday, October 4, 2014

How Our Reluctant Reader Came Around

Our older child has been an avid reader for what seems like her whole life. She started reading at 4 years old. We pulled her out of a Pre-K class, brought her home, started Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read, and in the blink of an eye she was reading. By age 6 she had read the entire Little House on the Prairie series and many other books. (Yes I'm bragging! She's smart y'all!) She loves to read. It is one of her favorite pastimes. We have never struggled with getting her to read. She reads everything! (In fact that's the struggle, keeping inappropriate books away from her. Not that she's looking for them just that she's read almost everything else!)

I had all these hopes and dreams that our younger child would fly through reading with the same ease. Wrong. He never showed the same level of interest that she did so we took it slower with him. At 4 he was learning letters and letter sounds instead of reading. At 5 he was doing the Hooked on Phonics level she had done at 4. He took his time. He struggled. We went back and repeated portions of the various Hooked on Phonics levels. Last year (at age 6) he had completed Hooked on Phonics PreK-2nd grade. That's still a feat! He was still a year ahead by completing the second grade level in first grade but he didn't run off and start reading a novel on his own. He told us repeatedly that he couldn't read even when we knew he could. He spent all last year declaring his disdain for reading. What's a home school mom to do? Persevere.

Even though he didn't like to read, I didn't let him stop. I didn't push him too hard but I did push a little. When he completed Hooked on Phonics, we just kept reading. First I had him read some smaller books to me like Dr. Seuss. Once he had done well with those (even though he still protested) we moved on to some very short chapter books. Boy he didn't like that- no pictures on every page! The first one I had him read was a baseball book. He didn't want to like it. He said he didn't like it but it sparked his interest at least a little. Then we moved on to Magic Tree House books. With story lines about dragons and ninjas he couldn't resist being at least a little interested. When our school year was over I relaxed a little. I didn't make him read to me every day but I did make him read Frindle to me over the summer. It was very slow. That's a long book (compared to the others he had read) so most of the time he only did a couple of pages at a time. He already knew the story (we had listened to it on audio book) so he was familiar with it. I never thought we'd finish Frindle. He never thought we'd finish it either but we did. We persevered.

Getting Speedy from a kid who liked to look at pictures in books to one who didn't like to/ didn't think he could read to one that read reluctantly to today was not an easy process. It was another one of those times when it was as hard for me as it was for him (like potty training, always more work for the parent). Around the time he was reading Frindle, he got interested in graphic novels at the library. I never discouraged it. He'd pick 4 or 5 graphic novels and I'd make him pick 2 or 3 "regular" books. Lots of weeks those regular books would sit in the library bag and never get cracked open. Or he'd look through them enough to figure out the story by the pictures. I just kept pushing through. When we moved to our small town we learned the library here doesn't have graphic novels. He was so disappointed. He still misses the graphic novels. At first he would pick some books but wouldn't read them. Then he went a few times and didn't even want to check out anything but an audio book and a movie. I was never negative to him about it. I just kept gently encouraging him to find some books. I'd point out books I knew he would like. 

Another big step in the right direction happened at the beginning of our school year. I told him I'd no longer read his Life of Fred or devotional to him. He had to read them quietly to himself. And he had to read his books for school to himself. He protested at first. A lot. Now he's good though. He knows he has to do it so he does. He's already read The Bears on Hemlock Mountain and 100 Penny Box for school. He actually finished both of those ahead of schedule so now he's reading a fun book called Slime Time during school. He's persevered. 

He pretty much sticks to the nonfiction section at the library for now. He's read up on motorcycles, snakes, whales, weapons, Abraham Lincoln, and more. At least he's reading! He's also voluntarily reading books we own now. Yesterday he started his first Time Warp book all on his own. He's a lucky boy because we have an extensive collection of Wishbone, Magic Tree House, Imagination Station, and other books from his sister's shelves. 

I see the inklings of a joy to read beginning to build. He read It Will Be Okay all on his own when it came and then he told summarized it for me. It isn't likely that he'll ever be as avid of a reader as his sister is but that's okay. Reading is important for life and I'm glad he persevered. And I'm glad I didn't give up. If you have a reluctant reader I hope you feel encouraged by this. Don't give up!

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