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Reading Explosion

We’ve been waiting for a reading explosion for some time now. Off and on for nearly two years, Simon would sound out a word or two, maybe even string together an entire sentence or simple book, and Matt and I would say to each other, “It’s coming. He’s about to take off with his reading.”

Then, right on schedule, he’d pull back, refuse to read for us, tell us he was more of a “numbers guy”, or dramatically sink into furniture the second we suggested he sound out an unfamiliar word. This probably makes it sound like we were pushing Simon, but we honestly weren’t; we were just asking him to show us some of the things he was doing at school.

Throughout, my mother-in-law, Evie, has explained to us how kids typically begin to read. (She’s a retired kindergarten teacher and should know.) According to Evie, for kids not inclined to use phonics to teach themselves to read (as Matt did), reading takes off towards the end of the kindergarten year, when children have amassed a large inventory of sight words. Sounding out a hundred words to read a simple book is exhausting. But towards the end of the year, kids will open a book, realize that they know all but one or two words by sight on a given page, and suddenly are ready to work through those unfamiliar words. They have the confidence, and the task is much less daunting.

We understood this and believed her, but still suspected that Simon was going to be more of a slow-and-steady developing reader. We gave up on the idea of an explosion. And now¬† here we are, towards the end of kindergarten. And here’s Simon, smack in the middle of an explosion in his reading. Actually, I think it started about two months ago, as Simon’s grade in reading went from S (Satisfactory, grade level) to O (above grade-level expectations) on his last report card. Evie had Simon read for her the other day, and after initial protestations of inability and/or fatigue, he got through the whole thing without needing help more than a few times. More to the point, once he realized he could do it, he insisted on finishing the task even when Evie offered to take over.

Well, that must have boosted his confidence, because now he’s reading everything. Street signs, some newspaper headlines, store signs, all of it. We don’t actually know how much, because usually it only comes up if he has a question, like “where’s the bike lane?” or “why aren’t bikes allowed on the expressway?” Sometimes I get an observation out of him, too. Yesterday, in the fitting room at Land’s End, he looked up at a sign saying “Get Your Perfect Fit” and noted: “Hm, that’s funny. There’s ‘fit’ like ‘get your perfect fit’ and ‘fit’ like ‘throw a fit’ but it’s the same word! That’s weird.” And increasingly, he’s interested in the word searches or crossword puzzles on restaurant kids’ menus.

Working the crossword at Molly Malone’s

But the absolute best moment to date came Tuesday night at the ice cream shop. I cannot turn off my editing brain. Ever. And right there in the middle of the store, my eyes were getting twitchy over an extremely ill laid-out sign. The font was too big and too bubbly to fit on the size card-stock they chose, the text was fully justified, and the effect was crowding on one or two lines that made it very hard to read. But that’s enough from me, allow Simon to explain:

“‘April showers bring free Sundaes. Buy one get one free on sundaes every day it rains in Kentucky this April.’ Wow. That was hard to read. They didn’t use finger spaces [This is how Mr. Sowder has taught the children to space their words.].”

I’m right there with you, buddy. And if you think that’s bad, just you wait until you learn the correct use of apostrophes!

One Response to “Reading Explosion”

  1. tlalbaugh says:

    I’m waiting for the LOVE of reading–you know, the thing where you can’t wait to open the library book you just got and disappear on the couch for hours? That seems to come around second grade, from what I can tell. Kira can read pretty much everything now, and has started reading some books on her own. But she still prefers us to read to her (A LOT–not that that’s a bad thing). What I’ve also found interesting is something I hadn’t thought of much at all, which is that reading and spelling are two very different skills. She often asks me to spell words that she reads without a thought. What you will love, Jessica, is that her very favorite thing to do in the world is write and illustrate her own books. Seriously, she makes TONS of them. Her current project is entitled “How to Take Care of Cats.” And she always asks me if her use of apostrophes is correct (SOOOOO my child; makes Tom crazy!).

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