I’m pretty sure reading has always been magical to me. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love reading (thanks Mom & Dad!). I’ve been so excited to foster the same magical excitement in Jenna. We have read to her since she was in the NICU as a baby, and she LOVES hearing stories. We started a routine of reading two stories before nap and again before bedtime at night, and it was a wonderful thing when she started bringing us books at all other moments of the day to snuggle down for a story. I still waited for that magical moment when she would start to get excited about reading on her own.
When she turned 4, I started working with her more by pointing to words and sounding them out. She quickly got irritated and frustrated and told me to “just read the story, Mommy!” She just didn’t seem interested in learning to do it herself. I backed off, watched and waited. I was thrilled last fall (at just past 4 and a half) when she spontaneously started sounding out words on signs when I was driving! She became infatuated with her Spinny Speller and she LOVED building words with this. I was excited for her. This continued for 2 or 3 months, then, somewhere around her 5th birthday, it seemed to shut off. She’s back to being frustrated & impatient when we sound things out, she says she doesn’t WANT to read it herself and insists that she just wants us to read to her. What happened?? I have no idea. None. And I’ve thought about it A LOT.
I began trying to think of ways to gently spark that magical excitement again. I say gently because I ASSURE YOU that any sort of pushing will be immediately met with her stubbornly applying the brakes. She needs to do things at her own pace. At some point, I started thinking about how much kids learn through modeling and imitating our behavior. I realized that I very rarely (almost never) pick up my OWN book and read when Jenna is around/awake. My reading time is while she’s sleeping. I decided to try initiating a “Quiet Reading Time” where we set aside time where the rules are no talking allowed and we BOTH spend time reading our own books. I knew that she wouldn’t be able to actually read on her own, but was hoping that this might push her into practicing sounding out words on her own again as well as reigniting her spark of interest in learning to read. She was excited about the idea. I set a timer (for just 15 minutes at first, so she doesn’t get to frustrated), and it became clear instantly that I was on the right track during that very first session. She got a teensy bit frustrated at first and stated that she couldn’t do it, but I gently encouraged her to just look at the pictures and try sounding out words if she wanted to. She quickly became engrossed, and now, two weeks later, she’s asking me more and more about words and sounding things out on her own. Hooray! That first day, she proudly told Daddy when he came home from work, “Guess what, Daddy? I’m doing Quiet Reading Time with Mommy every day now! Because I’m big!” We have Quiet Reading Time every day before naptime, now, and I’M loving it because I’m actually getting in some reading time of my own! Here’s what today’s session looked like:
What kind of stories do you have about reading with your kids? What got them excited about reading? What worked and what didn’t work for you? Do you read with your kids every day? If you don’t, I encourage you to give it a try. There’s nothing more magical and fun than snuggling down with a favorite little person to open a world of adventure simply by opening a book!
P.S. I should note that she independently declared today “Fancy Day” and just as independently chose her outfit & accessories! There’s also a tutu under that book! 🙂