She tells me she doesn’t want to go to first grade. That she no longer wants to be a first grader.
This child who loves school.
This child who loves her teachers.
This child who has been beaming since the day she realized that after kindergarten came first grade, another year to learn, another year to grow.
And yet, here she is, declaring that for her school is no longer where she wants to be. So I ask, what changed? Why not? And she gets a little quiet, sinks a little bit into my body, snuggles up as if the secret is hard to carry and tells me quietly, “I don’t know how to read…”
Because in her mind, all first graders know how to read. Because in her mind all first graders know how to look at a book and automatically unlock all of its secrets just like that. And why shouldn’t she? Hew twin brother, 21 minutes younger, is already deciphering words, putting letters together to uncover the mystery of the page before him. Asking me what this word means. How to spell this word.
And yet she sits in front of a page still working through her letter sounds, trying to remember the foundational blocks before she pieces them together. She sits in front of a page and instead of seeing opportunity she sees something that she cannot conquer, that she has not conquered, despite now being an almost first grader who supposedly should have conquered it.
I realize that once again, our well-meaning intentions, those benchmarks we put in place to ensure every child is a success has claimed another temporary victim whose self-esteem now relies on a part of her that her brain simply isn’t developmentally ready for. Because that’s it. There is nothing wrong with her capabilities. Nothing wrong with her skills. Nothing wrong with that smart brain of hers, other than that it is not ready. Not ready right now, no matter how many district mandates tries to say she should be, but she will be.
And so I wonder how often do we lose kids within our standards? How often do we add labels because of a rigid system that tells us not only how each child should learn but also when and then lets us decide that a perfectly fine child is now behind. How often do we, because of outside forces, lose a child’s place in school because a chart, a book, a system, told us that the child was lost.
I will tell you this, much like I told my Ida, she is a reader. She is a reader who is figuring it out. She is a reader who is growing. But more importantly, she is a child. A child who will read when she is ready. Who is ready for first grade despite the benchmarks reminders of what she should be able to do. She is ready and until the first day of school, and for every day after, we will snuggle into bed together with a book, reading the pages together, developing at the pace that was intended. Not the one dictated by something that will never know the nuances of my child.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child. This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block. If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.