Oct 9, 2013

Learning to Read

Dear finished her first chapter book today!

That is a BIG deal for us- for her!  She's started many many many chapter books, but she's never finished one.  Until today!  It was the Great Illustrated Classics version of Alice in Wonderland.

We were so worried about her for such a long time.  The girls missed a lot of school in the early years of their lives.  Mister was only 3, but Dear was just finishing up 1st grade when she went to live with my in-laws, and Slim was finishing up 2nd.  (For more information about that, I suggest you go here.)  Everybody is different- everybody learns differently and everyone copes with trauma differently.  For Slim, after starting up the 3rd grade and going to school every day and coming home to a safe place, she blossomed academically.  She loved to read.  She made great strides catching up, and has kept up ever since.  She still has problem areas, namely math and namely with her attitude, but she does ok.  Dear was a bit of a different story.

She just about couldn't read at all in the beginning.  She could read some words, but not many, and when you tried to sit down and read with her she just wouldn't do it.  She would shut down- no talking and staring straight ahead.  She was weird and evasive.  You never could tell which words she did know and which ones she didn't, because she was inconsistent.  And for years, she didn't get better.  Or rather, she improved at a snails pace.  For months nothing would change, and then all in one week she'd get just a little bit better- then months of more of the same.

Looking back, we probably should have just read to her more.  We should have read to her all the time, like you would a toddler.  I don't mean that in a condescending way, it's just how it is sometimes with kids who have rough beginnings.  In many ways Dear was kind of stuck around age 3, she just didn't really mature past that point.  In hindsight there are many things we could have done differently, but in the moment we just didn't know!  I mean we kind of panicked- what do you do when your second or third grader can't read and shows no signs of picking it up?  What if she never learned?  How would she survive?  We tried to get help from the school but OH. MY. GOD.  I could write an entire book on that struggle alone.

Yet, somehow, ever so slowly, she did learn.  I don't know how it happened, and I don't know when it happened.  It seems to be that way in this family.  I can look back at where we were 2 years ago and tell you that we were in a wildly different place then, but I couldn't tell you how we got to where we are now.  I think it's an amalgamation of many small choices combined with time, lots and lots of time, that leads to great change.

We switched the kids to a new school, a better school *cough cough*.  We read WITH her, we read TO her, we read IN FRONT OF her- we tried not to fight with her and totally did fight with her.  I'm sure we did many things wrong, but SHE LEARNED!  And today, while waiting at the dentist's office for her turn in the chair, she finished her first chapter book, and I cheered.

Does anyone else feel amazing the first time they realize this kid that couldn't read before CAN read now?  I still do the same thing with Mister every time he reads something- because he can read!  He couldn't do that before and he can now!  Not just 'cat' and 'dog' and 'the'- hard words!  Like 'could' or 'might' or whatever because he can read!  Sometimes people chuckle at me when I get excited about it- I can only imagine because they're thinking yeah, he's supposed to be able to do that.  I can't help it.  Slim can read and Dear can read and Mister can read and it's amazing.  The human brain, the resilience, the determination- I'm not sure what it is that I'm so impressed by but I am simply GIDDY that all three of my children can read.

**This has been Day 9 in 31 Days of Enjoying My Kid.

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