Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tessa and reading

I'm not sure if I've updated on Tessa in a while, so here goes.

We have read to Tessa every day of her life since birth, pretty much. Reading is an important part of our family life, and we have stacks of books all over the house to prove it. Ryan and I both read in bed at night before going to sleep on most nights; Tessa gets bedtime stories every single night. We go to the library about once a week, and we have accounts at the used bookstores in West Seattle for trading in our old books and getting new ones.

Books are important to all three of us.

However, after kindergarten started, Tessa suddenly shut down her desire to read. She loved being read to as much as ever, and still gravitated towards books in her quiet times when she wanted a little space or down time, but she absolutely refused to read a single word at home. Slightly panicked, I called her teacher, and we had some long talks about adjustment to kindergarten, perfectionism (Tessa suffers a bit from this, unfortunately), brain development schedules, etc. We made a deal to lay off Tessa about reading at home, and to have her continue in kindergarten reading at her own pace.

She dropped down a level in her reading group.

My heart sunk a little (okay, a lot). I want to school to come easily to her - hey, life is easier if school is fun - and though I leave it to her to decide what is most important in her life, I really really want her to be a reader; it's a value that Ryan and I share and want to pass along.

She dug in her heels and refused to identify any words at all. Not even the ones we knew she knew.

More calls to the teacher. More reassurances. More sinking feelings.

Well, last week we went to the library and I picked out a couple of level 1 readers for her (as I always do) so that if she CHOSE to read, she'd have access to new material that might interest her. I would like to shout THANK YOU to the author of "Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa." It will come as no surprise that this is a book about a girl and her horse.

And Tessa started reading.

And she read until we had to tell her that she absolutely MUST stop so that she could go to sleep at night.

She made us promise to wake her up early so that she could read in the morning before school.

She started dancing and saying, "I love reading! I used to hate it, but now I love it!"

Joy, joy, joy!

Tessa has to labor over words; she has a good sized fistful of sight words, but she has to read each sound aloud and then try to put it together - a laborious process - to figure out each word. But she's doing it! She's really getting it! And what's more, suddenly she's enjoying it. She's realizing that she can learn about horses in her own way if she reads her own books; she's realizing that she can unlock all kinds of secrets if she can read.


I don't care if she's a straight A student (though, with a mother's pride, I suspect that she might become one). I don't care if she's the best reader in her class (she's not, by a long shot). I don't care about any of it....I just want her to love reading, and to find success at school.

Her teacher is pleased with her work, she's doing everything at grade level, and yesterday she brought home some written work that made me smile. Spelled out phonetically, she had written "We went to a wedding and it was fun and the food was good." It looked like "We wint to a wdin and it wz fn and the fud wz gd." I couldn't be more proud of my girl - she did all that on her own, and previous sentences she's written have had maybe 3-4 words instead of 10+. She's trying, and with her trying, I know she will find success.


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