In the past year, my husband and I have been wrestling with a growing fear concerning our 6-year-old daughter. Will this incredible kid who adores books and being read to every night decide that she hates reading?
Let me first paint a picture of the role books and reading play in our home.
- Our daughter often sees her parents enjoy getting lost in a good book
- We have read to her since birth, reading 2-3 books each night
- She has her own special books on her personal bookshelf
- We replenish a large basket with new library books each week
- We signed up for Bookboard, a children's ebook firm, so she happily accesses children's books on our iPad as well
- If we tell her it's too late to read some nights, she bursts into tears
- She recently begged us to read her "A Wrinkle in Time;" it was over her head in many spots, but she loved it anyway and wants the sequels next
According to the children's literacy literature (a helpful summary table here), parenting advice and common sense, we're doing many of the right moves to help support and motivate a young reader. Yet when it comes to reading (or writing) by herself, everything changes. It is like watching a bright light switch off in our smart, creative little girl.
We first noted her initial challenges with letter recognition, repetition, and early writing tasks in pre-school. Then last year in kindergarten, the challenges intensified and other learning and behavioral issues also surfaced.
Now in first grade, we are working with a school assessment team and a formal ADHD diagnosis; other possible learning challenges are currently being evaluated.
Admittedly, we're at the start of our learning curve and journey here, a mix of concern and hope at work. There is concern as we watch her squirm or shut down, her frustration and self-doubts growing. She expresses more anxiety around schoolwork now. Some days, we feel the same.
Still, we are hopeful as we move forward. For one, we are working with a terrific set of teachers and school professionals who spotted issues early, offered immediate support, and are now working with us on a formal accommodation plan to meet our daughter's learning needs.
But there are also some successes to celebrate. After she read her first sentences using Bookboard's e-book service (the three of us let out victory cries and did a happy dance) I shared our news with the firm. They invited me to start a parent blog about our family reading experiences and children's literacy issues, which was great. But what was most exciting was seeing my daughter's face light up when they invited her to do some kid's book reviews for their site. She also got to co-host with mama her first kids' summer book club. Both tasks thrilled her and encouraged her reading goals.
Bottom line, our daughter has lots of people in her corner, some great resources, and her heartfelt love of books. Hopefully, with time, patience, and loving support, the joy of reading will follow and become a constant in her life.
Diana Dull Akers, PhD, is a freelance writer, sociologist, and mom to a feisty, fabulous six-year old, though never in that order. In addition to writing Parenting Guru blogs for Yahoo, she is a children's reading advocate and parent blogger for Bookboard.com.