Thursday, June 04, 2009


We had a little breakthrough on the reading front last night. My 4-year-old had given up the nightly bedtime story in favor of flash cards, this reading thing becoming like a hunger to her. After a few frustrating false starts with words far too complicated for an on-the-cusp reader, but that she refused to skip (butterfly, caterpillar, grasshopper), I sorted the cards when she wasn’t looking, pulling out all of the three-letter words (ant, cat, dog, owl, pig, cow, bee, some others I can’t remember now).

She knows all of her letters, and all of the sounds they make, so she was quick to say “a-n-t” then “ah nnn t,” but lazy about trying to run them together, wriggling around, begging to see the picture on the other side of the flash card to see what the word was. She fidgeted some more, then repeated the letters, then the sounds of each letter, and then suddenly sat bolt upright. “Ant!” she yelled. “It says ant!” she looked at me for confirmation and I flipped the card over to show her the ants pictured on the back. She squealed, flipped over backwards, kicked her legs in the air, then begged for more.

We made it through about a dozen cards, and she got every word, the switches in her brain flipping a little faster with each new attempt, the word coming to her a little easier, her excitement mounting after each success. After we’d completed the stack, when she wanted to move on to the four-letter words I’d set aside, I insisted it was time to sleep instead. I was thrilled to be there for the moment when everything finally lined up in her brain to read, really read, for the first time. I was high-fiving her after every word, hugging her and telling her how proud I was that she didn’t give up and kept trying until she got every one of them. Okay, I’ll admit, I was every bit as excited as she was. But it was getting late, so I did my best to calm us both down, and put her to bed.

Fifteen minutes later I heard a loud, gleeful cackle on the monitor, followed by a long giggling session. I went up to her room, to remind her that her sister was asleep next door, and found her squirming around in her bed, legs cycling above her. “I’m too excited to sleep!” she yelled. I hushed her, listened patiently as she brain-dumped the million thoughts keeping her awake, then told her that sleep helps your brain work even better, and this finally convinced her to settle down and try to sleep. A little while later I heard the telltale sound of sleep-breathing on the monitor.

I can’t wait for our next reading session together, tonight if she’s up for it, but not if she isn’t. I won’t push, risking turning this into anything less than good-natured fun. But next time I’ll try to start a little earlier, with some proper calming-down time scheduled afterwards.

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