Your Kid Can Read. So What?
I know it sounds harsh, but when someone would brag about little Suzy or Johnny reading, I wasn't too impressed. I had two kids that read before they went to kindergarten. That is just how it works, right? Nell was at level, and Grace was way above level. Why is it special that kids can read before they go to school? It wasn't for me, until I had Sapphire. See, any time someone asks me to describe her, I literally just say “Ohhh… she's a Sapphire”. Because her name – as odd and unique and wild as it is – sums her up perfectly. She's just a Sapphire.
Saff's been different from Day 1. She was born full-term, technically, but was about three weeks early. I couldn't breastfeed because she couldn't latch. I hadn't even tried to breastfeed the other two, but I knew better by the time I had my third kid, and of course it wouldn't go as planned. Does it ever? Saff was tongue-tied, but they said the procedure of clipping it was cosmetic, so they refused. I pumped for about four months before giving up. Being a single mom with three kids – never mind the fact we were living in a homeless shelter – was stressful. I just couldn't do it anymore.
Sapphire also had asthma, and as she grew into preschool age, we knew she needed speech classes. She was 4 when she finally got her tongue clipped. I guess I didn't notice that she wasn't interested in reading, because I was so focused on her other issues – the asthma especially. I was just thankful when she was healthy, and we weren't having to rush to the ER. By the time she went to Head Start, though, I knew something was up. Why didn't she want to read? Grace, her older sister by 18 months, was a bookworm. You couldn't pull her away from books, magazines, anything she could read. Saff just had no interest.
Her behavior was different, too. At 5 years old it was too early to diagnose with ADD, but I knew the signs because I have it and my brother has it. Still not interested in learning or reading. St. Louis schools didn't think it was a big deal because she was ahead of some of the other kids in class, and wasn't fist fighting at recess like the rest of the kids were. That didn't mean much… most of the kids in the entire school should've been failing but they just pushed them through to the next grade.
By second grade, we could tell she was falling behind – big time. Her teacher noticed and started working with her. We had always worked with her at home but it was so frustrating. She would shut down about 5 minutes in. Rachel had to do homework and reading practice with her because I just couldn't do it. It frustrated me to no end that she just never “got” it.
Sapphire was diagnosed with a Learning Disability in third grade. This was about the time she was also spending a lot of time in the hospital for her migraines, so we didn't have a chance to work with her as much. She spent all day and night sleeping. Getting on track with school was the last thing on our minds.
My kid can read and it's a big freakin' deal!
She's in fourth grade now and absolutely loves reading, learning, and anything to do with school! Why the switch? She got an IEP and started going to the “special” class – not sure if it's called Special Ed anymore, but it is for the kids that are behind. Her teacher was very patient with her and by some miracle, made something “click” in Sapphire's head to where she started learning. Now she's playing catch up, basically. She was in the special class for half the day to start, but now she is down to about an hour each day which is a huge improvement! She comes home with papers every day, excited to show me what she knows.
When I hear her reading a book in the other room, my heart melts.
She left me this note on my whiteboard yesterday. All on her own, unprompted, she WROTE something. Translation: I love your desserts.
When she leaves me a little note like that one, I have to fight tears back, because I appreciate her being able to read and write more than I ever could have with my other two. It was always just a given, you know? Kids grow up, they learn to read, write, etc and that's that. It's just a fact of life. But for many, it's not.
Learning to appreciate the small things in life is something I talk about a lot, but this time I get to practice what I preach. Watching her grow and learn every day is something I hope to never take for granted. This goes for my other kids too, of course, but there's just something different about watching her learn when she's struggled for so long.
If your child has no interest in learning, or maybe they have a tough time reading and writing, one piece of advice I can give you is just to be patient! It will come, if you work hard and don't force it. Kind of like what they say about potty training “you don't see kindergarteners with diapers, just let them do it on their own time”. Apply that philosophy about reading and writing with your little ones. Sure, make it fun, and try to help them learn… but remember it isn't the end of the world when your child can't read and they're going into kindergarten. That's what school is for, right? To teach them! And if something bigger is going on, the school will be able to diagnose and help you with it as well.
Not all kids learn at the same pace, so if you're like me and putting unrealistic expectations on your kids (or even yourself), take a step back… take a breath… and remember whatever's going on is only temporary!