Many times in the course of being a parent one of my children does something or says something that makes my heart swell. Tonight was one of these special moments.
My son is seven. He has been reading for about three years now. Last year he transitioned from reading aloud to being able to read to himself. His fluency and reading ability is well beyond his age level. As a former reading teacher and future author I could not wait for him to reach this stage. I looked forward to being able to give him books and watch him read them with the same enthusiasm that I had for reading. My husband is an avid reader and even my daughter who is six loves to read. I see us as a reading kind of family so I will admit I was a little disappointed when his love of reading did not take off as I had anticipated it would. My son had the skills but not the desire.
He has always adored listening to me read to him and he even enjoyed taking turns reading chapters aloud in stories like Harry Potter so I could not figure out why he would not pick them up and read them on his own. He would read his assigned homework reading without arguing and he would blast through his summer reading books without any complaint but I could tell he was not enjoying what he was doing. Reading for him was a requirement or a means to get a reward but never a pleasure.
Tonight that all changed. My neighbour has always bought my children little gifts for holidays and their birthdays. At Christmas she gave my son an amazing gift. The book One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson has sat on my son’s shelf since December. He picked it up this morning and began to read it. By the time he left for school he was twenty-five pages into it. Tonight he finished eating his evening meal, he had his shower without complaint and he headed up the stairs. I assumed he planned on watching television but when I went to check on him I was pleasantly surprised. I found him curled up in his bed reading his book. He turned to me as I was quietly closing the door and said, “I love this book mum. It is not like any of the others I have ever read. Can I stay up a little later tonight so I can read some more?”
My eyes filled with tears. It is one of those moments in parenting I have waited ages for. It is on par with him saying his first few words or taking those first wobbly steps. I of course agreed to let him have a little later bedtime because I was so thrilled.
I sat down and began to think about what made this book so different from all the others that had been put in his hands. Then it dawned on me, he has never been given a real book to read on his own before. The other books have always been levelled readers designed for education. His first books were laden with phonic lessons. His recent ones are to test comprehension and boost vocabulary. His school does not have a lending library like my school did when I grew up. Children in his school borrow books from the classroom. The only problem with this is that so far the books have all been levelled. My son reads many of these books because there is a reward system in his school. For every ten books a child reads they are given a bookmark and for every thirty they can select a book.
I now assume that despite having a shelf full of real books in his room he was still associating reading with the mundane books he gets from school and he would not entertain reading them because of that. Reading is a learned skill that is useful for many obvious reasons that we readers take for granted every day but the gift of enjoying reading is like having a treasure chest filled with adventures just waiting to be taken.
Do you remember the first book that made you become hooked on reading to yourself for pleasure?