Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Saturday, we meet up with a friend of H's at the park. It was late and we had to shop but we needed to catch the crisp spring day so we arranged for this small walk around a pond. On the way out to the park, we had received The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe in the mail so Umberto was reading it as we walked. In fact, there had been a squabble over the book before we exited the van. Umberto beat Camille out. As we walked, careful to steer my reading son, H's friend commented positively on Umberto's love of reading. Love obviously as he couldn't put the book down to walk. And H and I both laughed because a few years ago we were worried that our son was NEVER going to read much less love it.

People often ask me how we raised kids who love to read. I never have a good answer ready. I certainly never have a quick answer. Part of it is a mystery. Part of it is that we just did what we love to do which is read, talk about what we read, and surround our children and ourselves with books. It's not a very scientific answer, and I don't have reams of studies that back up my methods or ideas. But there are a couple of things that I've learned in this journey of homeschooling and child rearing, and those things have helped me in more than just preparing my children to be readers who love books.

First, readiness. I am likely square in the middle between nature vs. nurture debate. I don't believe that nature fully shapes but I do believe that we have biological tendencies that work with culture to shape who we are, how we learn, and who we become. For those who know my academic work, this is likely a shock as I am very  much a cultural construstivist theory person BUT having four kids has forced me to rethink an extreme position on this. Readiness is one reason why I have had to reevaluate.

Kids have to be ready for whatever development/educational goal you have planned. Push too soon and you're going to get snapped back in a variety of ways. With Umberto we began pushing reading at 5 as he headed into Kindergarten. His initial reaction was to hate books. That was a hard blow and a big part of why we pulled him out of school. Umberto had always loved books and he loved to be read to until he started school.  I spent about four years pushing and pulling back. I'm stubborn and I had a lot of pressure to get him reading so I had to learn the hard way. When I pushed Umberto, he pushed back with anger and resentment. We both ended up tears and I would apology before going into my room to be worry without him seeing me. I was terrified that my son couldn't read. Worried that we had gone wrong, that there was something wrong with him. I struggled with sorting through what was reasonable to expect for him and my own expectations. I floundered with feeling inadequate as everyone else bragged about their four year olds reading.

But then one day, with the help of his meds for epilepsy, it came together. Slowly Umberto began to read. When I worked with him, he didn't push back. My mom worked with him and he responded well to her instruction. He was ready. Interestingly his sister who also likes to read while she walks was reading well by six. She was just ready at an earlier time. With Piper, her readiness is coming later like Umberto but I have a feeling will come sooner than his did. This lesson about readiness is important because as a parent I've learned it applies to so much than just reading. It's important for things like weaning from constant nursing (Rowena), toilet training, introducing new foods, etc. The list goes on. And it's a tough lesson because it involves knowing your children very well, and being willing to back away when you've pushed too hard, too soon. And yes it involves knowing when you need to push harder, to push through laziness, etc. It's an act of discernment.

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