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Not-So-Easy Reader

posted Thursday November 20th, 2008

Last night, I sat with Annabelle and timed her for one minute while she speed-read part of a passage about squirrels. The goal, according to the Xeroxed paper that comes home each night from school, is 110 words by the end of the school year. The first night, she got 114 words. Last night (the third) she got 160.

Not bad. And I’m not even sure Annabelle’s in the highest reading group in class. I stopped trying to figure that out after I was disappointed last year, upon realizing she was only in the second-highest. (Don’t ask me why this is the one and only academic benchmark I care about. I didn’t even care when she didn’t make it into the gifted program. OK, maybe I cared a little but not as much as I care about reading groups! Probably because that was my only area of academic success.)

So Annabelle can read. She didn’t start early, wasn’t “hyperlexic,” a horrible title given to little kids who happen to great readers, but now she reads the heck out of everything. I remember when she began bringing home those little books in kindergarten, how it was obvious she was memorizing and matching words to pictures and then poof! One day, she was a reader. I don’t know how it happened. But I remember marveling that it had.

At the time, I didn’t think about how this process would (or wouldn’t) work for Sophie. Sophie loves books. She wants to be read to, she wants to pretend to read to you, she is known to grab a book and abandon just about any classroom activity. (How do you punish a kid for wanting to look at books?!)

But will Sophie ever actually read? Ms. X assures me that yes, she will. And for now, the biggest challenge appears to be that instead of sitting quietly with the book in her lap, following each word with her finger, Sophie wants to hold the book up and teach it to the reading group. She’s not in the highest reading group, or the second-highest. In fact, it sounds like Ms. X will soon have to create a solo reading group for Sophie so she doesn’t disturb the other kids.

It’s like walking. I said I didn’t care how long it took, as long as she did it eventually. And Sophie did walk at 3; now she runs and climbs and it’s hard to keep up with her.

The reading I just can’t get my brain around. Will Sophie be able to? It’s important. Vital. Not an option. One of the most important life lessons I think I can teach my kids is that no matter how bad things get, you can always escape with a good book.

For now, I am going to assume that Sophie will read. Maybe not 160 words in a minute, or even 110. But, I thought, as Annabelle sped through a line about how squirrels have eyes on the tops of their heads (really?) there’s no real need in life to speed read. (Unless you’re in high school debate like I was, dorkdom I wouldn’t wish on anyone, particularly not my own flesh and blood.)

So maybe Sophie will be OK.

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4 Responses to “Not-So-Easy Reader”

  1. Yes, she will read. Why in the ____ not?

  2. Ryan has all the necessary savvy to call me on his cell phone, invite himself to supper, supposedly, but really to rip additional CDs to his iPod. He logs on to his own computer account, rips the CDs, asking for help only to scan arcane album covers not listed on the ‘net.

    Maybe someday I can send you a copy of his writing. Horrible handwriting (hey, what’s wrong with THAT) but generally impeccable grammar and spelling.

    I don’t think he reads much. He CAN read music. All my sons took piano lessons, later to be in secondary school band. Even Ryan marched in the band.

    Ryan is a savant about NFL quarterbacks. He used to carry a huge three-ring binder with their cards, memorizing and sorting them in a Rain Man kind of manner. He can tell you everything about any NFL quarterback, even last string players.

    He used to work on all those fancy skateboard maneuvers that all the boys would work on, even one of those spin-twist moves.

    Sophie will do all these kinds of thing and more!

    Now, this sounds like something you with which you ended your This American Life article: Alas, one of Ryan’s more recent writings, at age 32, was an email to Santa. Sigh.

  3. I think a kid her age who can remember both my first and last name each time she sees me (for awhile now), will read. I mean my name isn’t easy! To remember or pronounce (even for me). ;)

  4. At least Sophie’s verbal. I’m trying to figure out how to teach my nonverbal, noncommunicative, 4 year old how to read.

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