I learned to read when I was 3 or 4 years old. I don’t recall any formal lessons by my mom, but my brother, Pete, is 3 years older, so perhaps his school lessons and early readers helped me pick it up.
My husband learned to read in school. It was hard for him, and he HATED it. He has nightmare memories of his mom trying to encourage reading by forcing him to read the Hardy Boys and stuff like that. To this day, he considers his reading skills to be inadequate: he’s too slow, he thinks.
I wanted my kids to love reading. I thought that if I didn’t push too hard, provided a large assortment of reading material (I LOVE DK books – I think a lot of boys like to read about STUFF, not stories), read to them and demonstrated my own love of books, that everything would fall into place and my children would naturally love reading too.
And in the deep recesses of my heart, I really hoped my kids would be like me and just pick up on reading without too much effort. They are, after all, little Einsteins, right?
Fritz bolstered these dreams by knowing his alphabet by the age of 2. He could write the letters by the time he was 3. He loved to have me read book after book. But alas, his 4th and 5th birthdays passed with nary a hint that he understood that those letters combined their sounds to make words.
So, we began formal phonics lessons when he was 5. He had no trouble with the sounds that the letters made, but when it came time to blend those sounds into words, it overwhelmed him. We tried for weeks, and then we took a break, and then we tried something else, and then we took a break, and then we tried something else…and on and on. Even after he began to put things together, it was a constant struggle and not much fun at all.
Progress continued to be painfully slow, especially for this mom who, on the one hand, didn’t want to push and really did agree with the idea that kids all progressed at their own pace (blah blah blah), but, on the other hand, honestly felt that HER kid was too smart to not be able to read (what was his problem, huh?).
I finished his phonics program in early March and we’ve taken a break from formal reading for a while, mainly because I’m trying to get ready to move. I bought a new reader for him, but decided I would wait until things were settled to delve into it. In the meantime, the kids have been left with the hundreds of kids books we own.
My husband and I have continued to read to them, and I’ve continued to encourage their own reading. I just haven’t forced them to read anything to me.
And halleluiah, Fritz has finally found his reading pleasure: old joke books and Calvin and Hobbes cartoons. He and Billy have been sitting around, giggling, as Fritz reads about the antics of Calvin. They’ve been acting out and quoting the different gags (not too surprisingly, my clever son thought the one where Calvin takes Hobbes to school for show-and-tell, but then uses him for math help (7 + 3 = 73) was really funny).