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Reading has always been a challenge for my children. My husband is dyslexic and I wanted to make a love of books and the printed word a goal early in my children’s lives. Since reading is such a challenge for my husband (and when I say “challenge” I mean he is deathly afraid of reading in front of even a three-year-old), it has been a journey I have taken alone. Over the years I have used many ways to incorporate books and reading into our world.
Our reading journey started with picture books before my oldest could even walk. We would spend hours on the floor in her room looking at books and talking about them. Then she began school and as the teacher sent home the beginning reader books with 10 words in them, the battle ignited. We spent days and weeks in tears. She began to have the fear of the printed word. She was quite the smart girl with a large vocal vocabulary but she just didn’t feel like she could grasp the concept of reading. I tried all the recommendations: reading to her and then having her repeat what I read back to me, rereading the same book over and over again until she assimilated the words. Honestly, we both spent many days in tears over this battle. I felt like a failure as a mom and as her first teacher.
So I began using every tactic out there to teach my child to read and help her grow into the student who goes to college, finds the future that she wants and is happy. There were great traditions that we adopted as a family through reading, like doing a Christmas countdown with books wrapped in a cute basket. Each night we would unwrap a book and read it that day. Sort of surprise stories.
This struggle continued throughout elementary into the beginning of middle school. We had a meeting with the middle school teachers at the beginning of the school year. They informed me that my 6th grader was reading at a 4th grade reading level and we all were concerned that it may impact all her classes. I was worried that my daughter who has piles and piles of books, magazines and other literature around her might never be a reader. After that meeting, we took a trip to the book store. I said I will buy you any book you want if you’ll just read it. She searched the store from top to bottom and finally picked up a hefty 300+ page book and said, “I want to see this movie so I’ll read this.” I wrinkled my face and replied, “You won’t read a 100 page book! Why would I buy you that?” She was determined to get the book so I reluctantly bought it for her. The deal was if she read the book, we would see the movie, just the two of us. No siblings, which doesn’t happen often when you’re the oldest of four.
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She spent hours in her room over the next month and finally one day she said so proudly, “I finished the book! Can we go see the movie now?” I was floored; how could this girl read this mountain of a book? But I’d made a promise so we went to the movies. Throughout the movie, she told me the differences from the book to the screen and how the actors were different than she’d imagined. So we went back to the book store and bought another in the series. Over the next two months, she read the three other books in that series picking up speed along the way. She was becoming the reader I always hoped she would be and was enjoying books!
In the spring of that year I met with my daughter’s teachers again to see the progress. They were blown away and said that she tested at a 7th grade reading level. I couldn’t believe it! She not only caught up but she surpassed where she needed to be. Over the next few years, her love for books and reading grew and grew to where she even decided to read Macbeth in that same middle school for fun. She has become a staple in the public and high school libraries. Other kids and adults now ask her for recommendations and she is more than happy to give them. In fact, last week she went on a tour on a state college and when she saw the library she decided that she was going to major in literature and become a librarian one day. I feel like we WON the battle!