Learning to read

Over at Jen Robinson's Book Page, there's a great post up on helping kids learn to read--lots of ideas from parents (including moi), teachers, and writers. Another point has just occurred to me, and I think it's important enough that it deserves a post of its own.

So often it seems like reading level is used as a measure in intelligence--"Oh, you're reading War and Peace and you're only 8! How smart you must be!" If you aren't reading "big books" at that age, it might then seem as though you are stupid. My second grader isn't stupid (ask him to explain String Theory, and he'll do fine), but there are many, many kids who are reading books considerably harder than the Magic Treehouse books he's plodding through. So I've made a point of explaining to him that each person's brain develops at its own pace, and in some people, different parts develop faster--some kids talk before they walk, some walk before they talk. I tell him he has a very well-developed math brain, and a great kindness brain (except for whacking his little brother), and tell him that in a few more years, when his brain has developed a bit more, no one will be able to guess that his classmates had ever read harder books than he was reading. I often remind him of what he was reading in past years, so he can fully realize he's making progress. Three December 31sts in a row, he's read A Fly Went By, by Mike McClintock. The first time through, it took three painful days. Next year, 25 minutes, reading out loud. This year, about 20, read to himself. So he can really see he's getting there.

Otherwise, I think it would be so easy for him to just think "I'm a bad reader." A self-fulfilling prophecy if there ever was one.


  1. An excellent point Charlotte, and one that I agree deserves more attention. I think that one of the reasons this whole encouraging reluctant readers thing is important is that people who read a lot as children end up having an easier time reading for their whole lives. But that doesn't mean they have to be reading War and Peace in second grade.

    I also think that a lot of kids miss out on wonderful, age-appropriate books just because they can read bigger, thicker books. And that's a shame.

    Anyway, thanks for contributing to the article, and for sharing these thoughts here. I added a live link back here in the comments.

  2. What great points, Charlotte. A sweet story.


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