I've been blogging about my daughter's reading life for three years now, including "Cheerleader-style spelling and other fun preliteracy moments," and "The dark side of raising a literate toddler." Writing about reading has helped me think carefully about our family life with books, and especially how many opportunities there are to read. One of my favorite discoveries was that my daughter loves to read signs, and that for a little while, reading before bed meant reading the back of a toy package.
Of course, what all this was leading up to was the moment that she would be able to read herself. It's been a while since I thought in terms of milestones, which are frequent and important moments for parents of babies and toddlers. But as the mom of an almost-six-year old, milestones aren't a big part of my parenting parlance anymore.
Some of these milestones were really important to me, some less so. When she learned to walk, it was exciting, but I didn't feel a deep, visceral connection with it. When she really started talking though, I felt like our lives changed. And similarly, I know reading will change her life.
So I was very excited a few weeks ago when she came home with a new book, sat down and just read it. Before that she had been picking out sight words here and there, but I hadn't seen her read a book before, much less do voices and emphasis (she learned about exclamation points and question marks in school).
Here are three things I'm doing now that she's basically reading:
- Keep reading to her: Reading aloud is important, even after kids can read to themselves. It's good bonding time, it helps with vocabulary acquisition and exposes her to a wider range of stories. Reading together also gives us things to joke and talk about later.
- Encourage her to read but don't make her read: It's important to me that reading is fun for her. We still read aloud at night, but give her the option to read a little (or a lot) herself, if she wants to. If she doesn't, that's ok. Usually she does a little, sometimes she does a lot.
- Play word games. She loves spelling and writing, and often wants to write notes and cards or figure out how to spell words on her own. A lot of the time her spelling is a little off, but we don't make a big deal about correcting her unless she specifically asks. We also make up nonsense knock-knock jokes and alternate lyrics to songs, all of which help her udnerstand how to use and play with language.
Parenthood is full of miracles, and watching your child learn to read is one of them. The best part for me is watching her practice and make mistakes and learn, and know that reading is still fun for her. I view it as my job to do everything I can to keep it that way.