For months, Lily has known how to read.
I remember the day, clearly. There was still snow on the ground outside our living room window. The sky was grey outside.
Lily flipped through a basket of books sitting next to the couch, and held up Monkey Flies A Kite, a sweet little leveled book that I use at school all the time. “Mama, will you read this book to me?”
“Come sit, you can read to me!”
A dark look of annoyance flashed over Lily’s face, but she snuggled in next to me anyway. Snow started to fall outside our window.
Lily didn’t have to say it — I knew she wanted me to read to her, not the other way around.
I pointed to the cover and said, “Do you remember what this book is called?”
Lily practically rolled her eyes at me. “Hmph! Yes! Of course I do!” She then read through the whole book word for word, perfectly. 100% accuracy, fluency, and comprehension.
“WOO HOO! GIMME FIVE!” I practically jumped off the couch with excitement.
Lily high-fived me and hmphed again.
And for a long time since that moment I didn’t have a whole lotta luck getting her to read to me much.
I tried letting her stay up later just to read to me. I tried bringing her for a special shopping trip just to pick out new books. I tried hiding books under her pillow as surprises. I tried getting her to read to her baby brother, her stuffed animals, her cousins. I tried nonchalantly just starting a little book myself, and asking her for help with “tricky” parts. I tried explaining how if she practices and practices she’ll soon be able to read everything in our house. I tried laying out a progression of books from A/B up to J/K so she could visually see how it works. I spread out my efforts, not saying anything for days, just letting it be. Trust me, I tried everything.
If I was lucky, she’d huff a little and blast her way through another little leveled reader. But most of the time she just wanted me to read to her–and I didn’t want to force it.
I think I understand why. She LOVES books. She LOVES being read to. She LOVE LOVE LOVES writing. But the leveled books are babyish – even though she’s only five. She wants to be reading chapter books, not because there is any kind of pressure, just because those are the better stories. She loves a nice, long story. I’ve been reading her things like Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, and Magic Treehouse, and the Clementine series, and Ivy & Bean. It’s no wonder she isn’t super psyched about Monkey Flies a Kite, a level B/C book (no offense).
But… that all changed last night.
Because last night, at bedtime I gave her her own special “Reading Toolkit.” I found a beautiful, special little box, and in it is a special pointer (made from a popsicle stick with googly eyes on the end), and there are post-its and stickers. Every time she reads a book, she can put a post-it in the back, and then put a sticker on the post-it each time she rereads.
It was if the special box put a spell on Lily. “I’m going to read every book 20 times.” She said immediately, as if in a trance. Part way through her first or second book she paused and said, “Mommy, I think I’m going to actually read every book 50 times, is that okay?” A little later she stopped in the middle of a book and said, “Mom! This pointer actually helps me to read!” (I feigned surprised, “Wow! Really?! That’s so cool!”) She read six or seven books in a row, and when I told her she could even keep on reading by herself after bedtime you would have thought I’d handed her a million dollars.
The reading curse has been broken! I’ll accept my Mom of the Year Award any time now! But I’m keeping it when the magic of the reading box wears off!