Reading for the First Time

by On March 4, 2013 in General, Reading

Hope taps her way to her first experience reading.

In our home, we have had the same ritual most every night since we adopted Hope, our 3-day old daughter. Nighttime is about dimming the lights, turning off all distractions, and reading books. Today at age 5, Hope still considers story time to be the best time of the day. The husband and I share her opinion.

For the first years of her life, we’ve seen that Hope is a bright, curious, verbal kid. Her comprehension of the books we’ve read to her at each stage has been impressive. We’ve loved introducing her to some of our favorite childhood books, and having spirited conversations about characters, storylines and illustrations.

Basically, there’s a love affair going on at our house with books and reading. Which is why we were so caught off guard the day we heard the news from Hope’s kindergarten teacher: our daughter was assessed as needing reading literacy support.

Initially, we had a tough time wrapping our heads around the news. I recall sputtering at the take-home materials explaining the importance of reading to kids, fighting the urge to photograph the many bookshelves and book baskets in our home. But our confusion and defensiveness quickly gave way to recognition. Yes, we were reading and instilling a love of books in Hope. But no, we were not spending much time teaching her to actually read.  We had also been noting her struggles with letter recognition and early writing skills.

Hindsight is not just 20/20. It can also make you cringe.

At school, Hope began working with a wonderful reading specialist in a small group setting. At home, we were encouraged to think creatively about diverse reading and writing tools and opportunities. Today, we play more word games in the car. We make time for practicing flash cards with site words. We check out beginning reader books at the library along with more complex books we will still read to her.

And, we became a Bookboard family, with no idea that this resource would be a character in the story of Hope’s first reading experience.

We had been exploring Bookboard for a few weeks, continuing to read to Hope but letting her select books, flip pages and control her experience. She was clearly engaged, but when we asked if she wanted to try to read one of the early reader books, she would quietly say: “no, I don’t know how.”

One night, I was snuggling with her on the couch before bedtime, tablet in hand. My husband was close to dozing in his chair. Then Hope said the words that made my husband and I sit up straight:

“I want to try to read this myself.”

We watched as Hope laid her index finger on the screen, pointing to the words as she had been taught, focusing on a letter at a time.

  • I can tell you that it was a very slow progression through a dozen words on a single page of a single book.
  • I can tell you that she focused mightily on her task, and began shouting a little louder with each recognized word. 
  • I can tell you that I will never forget the look on her face as she realized she was reading for the very first time.

When she finished the page, the three of us stared at each other for one silent moment, then leapt up and did our Happy Dance, jumping, hugging and fist pumping the air. Over and over Hope screamed: “Yeah! I did it! I actually read!”

She did, and it was amazing.

Every day since, we are reminded of a truism: reading can be hard work for kids and parents. But thankfully, the love affair we all feel with books – in their many forms – continues.

 

Diana is a sociologist, freelance writer and mom, though rarely in that order. Her writing spans topics from parenting joys and challenges to prevention education. She writes a monthly parenting blog for Yahoo and has published feature articles on adoption, family rituals and the childcare industry for parenting publications. Diana earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Santa Cruz. These days find her hanging with her husband and book-loving six year old in the San Francisco Bay Area, while happily blogging and serving as a reading advocate for Bookboard.

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