December 10, 2013

Learning to read

I saw a piece on CBS's Sunday Morning program (I LOVE that show. So much.) about an 80-something year old WWII vet who only recently - within the last year - learned to read. For the first time, he was able to pick up a book. For the first time, he found himself strolling through the aisles of his local library (children's section) to find as many books as he could read in the twilight years of his life.

It was pretty incredible.

I thought about all the books I've read in my life - some great, some mediocre, some that have made me throw them across the room, never to be seen again (the ending of Atonement made me so angry I still refuse to speak of it). I thought about falling in love with characters, with settings, myths and legends and so many monsters. I thought about how much I love to read, and how I can't imagine a life without books. 

A few months back, Zoe and I were home together for the summer, and I worked with her on learning to read almost every day. It was hard for her, and though I didn't push, she still grew frustrated. One day she exclaimed, "I don't ever want to learn to read."

And I wrote about it here because it almost broke my heart.

I realized very quickly, though, that reading was frustrating to her, but she still loved books. We still read together every night, working our way through Junie B. Jones and Charlotte's Web and dozens of Cam Jansen mysteries. She loved the stories; the act of reading was just still a difficult thing.

Now? Well, though she still doesn't love reading on her own, these days she LOVES to read to me. She's doing better and better every day, and willingly picks up a book and settles down beside me at night to practice. I still read to her, too, of course, and will for as long as she'll let me, but she's reading now, fairly fluently, and it's been exciting for the whole family.

She loves mysteries - something I never did, and something I now find very interesting to watch in her. Even the first two Harry Potter movies were, to her, nothing more than good mysteries. "I'm glad they tell you who did it before the end," she said. "I like that they don't leave you wondering." It had never occurred to me before that they were mysteries, but once she pointed it out there it was, staring me in the face. I love when she opens my eyes to a new perspective.

So now I lose myself in daydreams sometimes, thinking about all the books she has yet to read. All the amazing stories out there she's yet to discover. I try not to push her toward any particular books too much - finding the stories you love, for yourself, is one of the best parts of reading in my opinion - and she's definitely finding her own path. Like I said, if it's a mystery, she'll locate it on the deepest shelves of the library. She's also finding trickier books - chapter books - and having fun pushing herself to her reading limits.

I can't imagine not knowing how to read, and all the doors that would suddenly open upon learning, but with my wild and crazy five-year-old by my side, I almost get to relive the experience of discovering books a second time around. And that's just pretty awesome, don't you think?


James Storie said...

I watched the same CBS Sunday Morning episode (which is a great show). It was amazing to see that he is not start to learn to read.

Marie Collier said...

Great story on CBS. It's true that anyone can learn to read. Adults can even use this proven children's learn to read program to learn to read:

We are never too old to learn to read. Whether it's an 80 year old or a young child. The principals in learning to read are the same!

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