To hear my mom tell it I was reading Nancy Drew mysteries by age two. (No.) But "reader" has been part of my identity as far back as I can remember. And for someone who thrives on Nice Things People Say About Her, In Particular Her Teachers And Parents, it's been super important to me to be a GOOD reader. Of course, being a "good" reader loses nearly all of its meaning as you realize there are no special points for learning to read before you go to kindergarten, and then instead it's about how many books you read, what kinds, whether you can nod superiorishly when someone excitedly tells you about a new author they've just discovered.
(By the way, I think I've completely dropped the ball on Being A Good Adult Reader. I don't read super fast, the only new books I keep track of are British and Italian murder mysteries, I've only read a handful of the books everyone raves about on Twitter, and more than two thirds of the books on my Kindle (and ALL the books on my nightstand) are 20th century history books. I am no one's idea of Well Read. Sigh.)
ANYWAY. All that to say it was important to me, to the point where I just naturally ASSUMED, that my kids would also be Good Readers.
(Let us pause while I roll my eyes at my own self.)
Oh yes, I ASSUMED, in fact I EXPECTED, Jackson Cheung to be reading chapter books by kindergarten. And I'll just say right now that I did absolutely nothing to PREPARE him for such a feat. Along with the assuming and expecting was, I think, the presumption that reading Nancy Drews in preschool was something that just came naturally. It wasn't something I THOUGHT about. It wasn't something that I was consciously waiting for, even. I just thought one day it would happen! Like out of thin air, one day my kid would just start reading.
Other things I assumed:
- He would opt to read over, say, play Subway Surfer on the iPad.
- He would beg me to go to the library.
- Once at the library he would provide me with a two-foot high stack to check out.
- He would never EVER groan or make an Unpleasant Noise when asked if he would like his mother to read to him.
- He would have Favorite Books.
- We would BOND. Oh the BONDING! Over BOOKS! Tra la la!
So yeah. None of this happened. We always read books before bedtime, but otherwise Jack never showed much interest in reading on his own or wanting to be read to. Molly seemed to like listening to stories a little more than her brother, but again, I pretty much stopped going to the library with them because they were such pains. They were barely interested in the books and when they discovered that you couldn't just sit down and play a game on the computers they were all, "Can we go to the playground now?"
Of course I determined that I'd done something hugely wrong in their first years. I encouraged and offered and hunted for books they'd enjoy, but no one ever wanted to read them and after a while it was like, "Why am I doing this to myself?"
Then last year, in kindergarten, Jack began learning to read. And it was... kind of crazy.
I am surrounded with friends who have precocious little girls reading Jane Austen at age five. I'd just accepted the fact that I was going to have one of those kids who didn't like books and we would have a Hard Row To Hoe (is that the right expression?! NOT WELL READ.) and we would struggle and whatever. Fine. And because Jack wasn't terribly interested, Molly didn't seem to be interested either and FINE. We would deal. I felt certain it would all turn around once they were old enough to read The Westing Game, but for now, FINE. FIIIIIINE.
But Jack started learning to read. Slowly. Hesitantly. Uncertainly. And it was like a miracle. This thing that I'd been trying to do with him for SO LONG was SUDDENLY HAPPENING. At this magical place called school! Where he seemed to be MUCH more motivated! And I wasn't in charge!
He still didn't want to read much at home, but whatever, I was pleased. It was fantastic.
But then THIS year. THIS YEAR IS NUTS.
My kid can REEEEEAD. I am so freaking amazed at how far he's come just from the beginning of the year. And Molly? Based on what I attempted to do with Molly in preschool I didn't have any expectations, but that kid can read levels and levels better than her brother did in kindergarten. She is always surprising me with what words she already knows. Right now they're in their beds reading to themselves before I turn out the lights - my absolute favorite thing in the world to do, they are doing it, and they didn't make a single groan or whine about it. They said, "Well can you get me a few more books?"
It's just so exciting. There are ten million things I want to share with them, ten million things that I'm all HURRY UP SO WE CAN READ THIS! This part of being a mom is so good, you guys! I get SO SNIFFLY about my kids getting bigger and how they're all elbows and knees and no more pudgy cheeks, but now they can READ. And I think they're beginning to LIKE it. And it doesn't matter at all that they didn't want to sit and listen to books when they were little or had no interest in sounding at words at age four or that neither of them are in the highest reading group like I was (BECAUSE THERE ARE NO READING GROUPS, GAWD MAGGIE), it's happening and it's SO COOL.
We planned this trip to Disneyland a few months ago. We wanted to take Emma while she was still little and my mother-in-law is retiring this year and we thought it'd be a fun celebration trip and, well, whatever I do not need any reason to go to Disneyland. But we didn't tell the kids until well after Christmas and then we told them we could only go if they each read 20 books. That's probably a silly number to a lot of you (I'm looking at you, friends with Precocious Girl Readers!) but it was a HUGE one for us. They could only put a point on their chart if they found a book at the right level and read the entire thing out loud to us.
We are ALMOST at 20 books. And there has been NO complaining. Only "what book should I read you tonight, Mommy?!" I think this calls for a Squee.