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Challenge: Reading Together

Learning to Read is Sucking the Fun Out of Reading

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The birthday boy sat down beside my daughter as she opened a book for her baby brother. “The truck is yellow,” he read smoothly. My brain started in on the comparisons; he’s only two weeks older than her, why can he read and she can’t? Is she behind? Should I worry?

Oh right. She’s in Kindergarten.

It is easy to get caught up in the testing craze that is sweeping the nation -- to put stock in homework for a five year old. At a time when we were playing in the sandbox and running imaginary restaurants, she is expected to be reading.

I’ve never been concerned about my daughter learning to read -- until now. She comes from a family that takes the written word very seriously. My father is an author, my sister a librarian, and my mom’s purse lost 20 pounds with the invention of the e-reader. I write bedtime stories, and she makes up her own. Reading is woven into the fabric of her life.

Instead of slowly, gracefully letting literacy come to her, it is being shoved in her face. Every night she is supposed to practice reading and writing, and it’s painful. She balks at being pushed to do something that she is not quite ready for, digging in her heels and shutting down. I’m torn between helping her keep up and letting it come naturally. I want reading to be magic. I can’t wait to see her so engrossed in a book that she hides under the covers with a flashlight.

I was not reading in Kindergarten, yet by the third grade I was reading The Babysitters Club books while walking down the hallway and during recess. Each month I begged for my mom to take me to the bookstore to get the newest adventures of Kristy and the gang. I participated in every reading challenge that came my way -- not because I had to, but because I wanted to. Today reading gets me out of my own head for a few hours, providing momentary escape from the overwhelming truth of life with two small children.

I know that she is her own person, and maybe books will not hold the same meaning for her as they do for me, but I want to stack the card catalogue in her favor. I want to set a positive foundation, not create frustration and tears. I’m scared that learning to read is sucking the fun out of reading. I can see the cracks in her self-esteem, and it’s up to me to help patch them. I’m going to start by once again focusing on reading to her with no expectations or strings attached. I’ll start with Kristy’s Big Idea.

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