being a teacher, being me

Hopefully We Will Get It Right

To my sweet little girl, who may not be so little anymore but still…

Two days ago I asked you to read with me.  This week has been crazy with long hours at school for me and I have missed so much of our daily routine.  No books, no hugs, just hurried bedtime kisses and promises for a weekend together.  So you searched for a book and I watched you pick up, discard, pick up, discard, pick up, discard until you finally grabbed a book and sat in close.  You opened the first page and then stopped….

Haltingly you forced out the first word, then went through the next and then you stopped once more.  Guessed, moved on until you once again became stuck and the words did not come.  I pointed at the words, waiting patiently but I felt it in every inch of you; the tension.  The difficulty.  The work…The exact opposite experience I wanted to have with you and then you said, “Mom…reading is really hard.  I don’t think I like reading anymore…”  And I had to look away because for a second my world stopped and I had to take a breath and find my smile and look at you.  I said the only words I knew to say which were, “I know, I am sorry, but you are doing it, think of how far you have come…”

And yet…I cannot help but think of what we did wrong when we raised you to be a reader.  Of how we must have screwed up somehow because it is not meant to be this hard.  It is not meant to be such a struggle when you are eight.  It is not meant to be this constant struggle, god I hate that word, and yet struggle is exactly what you do when you try to crack the code of the word on the page in front of you, a word I swear you just knew the night before.  And so I blame myself, how can I not, because I am the one that should have done something, whatever IT was, that I obviously didn’t do and now here you sit telling me that reading is not something you like anymore.  That reading may not be your thing because it is boring, and hard, and obviously not meant to be figured out by a kid like you.  And it tears me apart because what is life without reading and how come mommy can’t fix this?

You go to bed and turn on the light.  As I tuck you in you tell me one more book, mom, and you do your version of reading, and I know deep down that it wasn’t us, that it wasn’t something we did, but I still feel so darn responsible, like I somehow screwed up by not reading more books or pointing out more words.  Like somehow I missed a step when they told me how to raise a reader, and I feel so lost in how to help you, and I am sorry.

But you, my little girl, are teaching me that sometimes things are outside of our control and even though we try so hard as parents it doesn’t always work.  That even though we stuffed our house as full of books as we could.  That even though we read to you every night.  That even though we pointed at the words and tried to make reading fun, it still may be the hardest thing you have ever had to overcome.  And that although I wish I could just flip a switch, or carry the burden for you, that all I can do is keep smiling and keep the focus on what really matters; the love of books.

So tomorrow we are home and I will ask you once again.  “Come sit by me and find a book, let’s read it together…” and you will.  And you will pick up, discard, pick up, discard, pick up, discard and together we will slowly piece the words together and hopefully, we will laugh.  And hopefully, you will be proud, because I will be.  Every day.  Every book. Every word, even if we don’t get it right the first time.


15 thoughts on “Hopefully We Will Get It Right”

  1. I love this so much. I too had a young one who just didn’t like reading. It was so hard for him. And then third grade happened and it all shifted. Now I catch him reading way past bedtime. You’re doing all the right things. You’re reading with her and not making it a big deal. She’ll get there. Or not. But most of all, she knows you accept her.

  2. Everything you wrote is exactly how I’ve felt with my son. I teach Kindergarten and I thought I did everything right and I too think I screwed up somewhere! He is in grade 5 and reading is ‘hard’. So hard that he ‘hates’ it. I don’t try to force him to read anymore, that just causes tears and slamming doors. We listen to audio books and I read to him – when he lets me! He reads at school and sometimes brings home graphic novels. It breaks my heart and I can only hope that one day it will click and he will ‘love’ reading and it won’t be so hard anymore.

  3. Reading for my oldest son was terrible. Although the school disagreed he needed help. I did everything short of aromatherapy. On his ACT reading was his highest score, 31. How did this happen? Determination on my part; cooperation on his.

  4. Such a touching post! As a parent I can empathize with you in those moments. Especially when our child teaches US something. Thank you for sharing a piece of your heart .

  5. Thank you for those words! I’m sure that was difficult to write. This time of year I am always beating myself up for not doing more for my students. Why are some of my kiddos still struggling so much? Did they do well on the state test? Endless questions! But what I do know is that I built a community of students who persevere when life gets hard. I hope they will remember the countless books we have shared and the countless lessons we all learned!

  6. I had a grade 3 student in my 123 multi-age class who came to reading in her own way. In grade 2 she was to go for literacy support, but she was not really progressing and after a while she refused to go with the teacher. In Grade 3, at reading time, she chose to go on Tumble books, a program that highlights the text as a recorded voice reads a popular story. She did this every day for at least a month. She must have read Robert Munsch’s 50 Below Zero 50 times. One day, she found the book in my classroom. She asked if she could read it to the class. She did. Perfectly. Soon she was reading other Munch books she found, and by the end of grade 3, chapter books. She had learned enough common words from that repetitive reading to help her turn the corner. I learned there are many ways children can come to reading.

  7. Your thoughts always seem to find me at the right time. I just had a conference with my youngest daughter’s teacher and felt the same doubt, the inadequacy. And I am thankful that as her mother, I am able to see the many other beautiful gifts that she brings to the world. She reminds me of the students in my classroom who struggle with the content, and she helps me remember that I need to look for all of their many gifts as well.

  8. My kids did not struggle as readers, but they also did not love to read. How could that be? We spent endless hours reading together when they were littles, curled in my lap, begging for just one more book. They loved being read to, but when they arrived at school, they read what they had to and no more. There was no walking around the house walking into walls because they couldn’t stand to put their book down. There was no sneaking a flashlight under the covers to read after lights out. There was no pleading to be taken to the library because they were out of books. THREE of them. THREE of them who viewed reading as a task necessary to daily life but not a joy as necessary as taking a breath. Who were these strangers under my roof?

    Funny thing is, they are now grown and gone, and all three have become voracious readers as adults. I’m reminded of this Scripture: “Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he won’t depart from it.” There is an implication in there that there may be a period of time ‘off road’.

    I am sorry for the struggle your daughter is experiencing, and for your own struggle as you watch and walk alongside. She will find her way onto the road. It may take awhile. And the struggle may be building something she will need on the journey.

    1. This gives me hope! My teenage son doesn’t like to read anymore, pretty much since my hubby got him a phone. Ugh. It’s been so hard to take. I’ve tried everything short of bribery. I’ve been guilty of forcing it in the past so I’m stepping back now and hoping for the best! My brother was like your kids so I suppose there’s hope!

  9. Thank you for a very honest blog piece. As educators and moms, it can be especially hard for us to see our students struggle with something that we love to do and teach! I am going to share this with my faculty as we often feel that way about our little learners as we try to find ways to ease this struggle and maintain the joy that reading can bring to oneself.

  10. Oh how this post resonates. My own 7 year old loves stories and publishes books, but does not, and has never, liked reading. His struggle to decode every word, to make meaning once all his effort has gone into sounding out the words…breaks my heart. “Mommy, this book is too long.” Or, “There are too many words on a page.” I hold this weight on MY shoulders everyday. Didn’t I do everything I was supposed to do? I often remind him of the growth he has made, but have to remind myself more often to make that MY focus. It may never get easier for him, but he will continue to grow and isn’t that what I tell my students is the most important thing? For now, I will continue to read with and to Kyle and nurture his love of story, which I’ll do long after he actually enjoys reading himself!

  11. Thanks for the post, Pernille. I’m reminded of my youngest daughter. I, too, felt the vastness of her adversity– one that I couldn’t kiss away. Over time, I realized that while we needed to do some things differently, SHE was not different. For me, that knowledge was a game changer. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  12. Grippingly beautiful. This is the heart-cry of some 20% (ish) of families. Interventions for our truly dyslexic kiddos are scarce in many districts. It saddens me so.

  13. I have three young adult sons, all of whom loved hearing Harry Potter and other epic stories read aloud in bed every night when they were younger. Only one of them is “a reader”; for the eldest it has always been a struggle, my middle son (the reader) willed himself to read in first grade- daily determination and drive- my youngest is not a fan of school at all and took the high school equivalency exam to get out of Dodge- but they are all lovers of story. They watch movies many times over and listen to every nuance. They listen to audio books and podcasts. They are voracious learners. Maybe we are not all meant to be readers,

  14. My son, who turns 17 tomorrow, had this same experience as your daughter. I, too, felt as you do. Here are a couple of things that came out of our situation. He started taking piano lessons in 3rd grade (because he wanted a trophy and his sister got one for piano at Creative Arts Day) and I’m positive that it helped his brain form some pathways that needed to be formed to help him read as well. It was torture to watch at first, but half way through the school year, piano started to click and then the reading started to click. Next as I stumbled through this process, wondering what I missed in college that I needed to help my own child, I discovered that for us, me reading to him was the best thing I could do. For example, we read the whole Fablehaven series, which he LOVED and could never have read on his own. I did not have him do any of the reading because it was too hard. I wanted this to be enjoyable time together where he could just love reading again. Of course it was amazing time for the two of us together, but it also helped improve his comprehension through our talks about the books; it improved his vocabulary; and it improved his fluency by listening to how harder longer books should sound/flow. I read to him all the way through 8th grade, always picking books that were above his independent level and never making him read. He still did not love reading on his own, but he could do it. Then when he was 16 and interested in joining the military special forces, he started reading novels on his own!! He even went to the public library, which he hasn’t checked out books at since he was in elementary school, to check out books – not movies!!! I had given up hope of him ever reading for enjoyment, but it happened!! Hang in there!

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