Maybe it’s because she can read what she wants. Maybe it’s because she can read when she wants. Maybe it’s the Reading Log Workbook, cheering her on to read one million words this school year. Maybe it’s not having to do monthly book reports. Or maybe it’s just because she’s another year older, and has accepted the reading as part of her responsibilities. Whatever it is, I love not having to cajole, beg, plead or stand over her to get her to do her reading anymore.
My 6th grader’s new charter middle school doesn’t have a lot of requirements to go with their 30-minute daily reading assignment. In fact, she doesn’t even have to do it every night; it’s up to her to figure out how to read that amount each week. She’s opted to do it all on Sundays. Part of that is because of our hectic schedule lately, and finding a half-hour a night isn’t feasible many nights. But come Sunday, she reads. It only takes one reminder from me, and she gets out a timer, figures out how long to read before taking a break. She only asks that there be silence while she’s reading, a simple (and frankly, welcome by me) request. My older daughter either goes into her room, or puts on headphones. I get some housework done, and read during my breaks. After each reading session, we use the guide provided in her Reading Log Workbook to figure out how many words she’s read, she writes it down, I sign my initials. She takes her break, and then goes back to reading with no fuss when her break time is over.
This is simply not normal for us. Right or wrong, good or bad, every school year for the last 5 years, I’ve struggled to get her to like reading. It’s been frustrating on varying levels for me. I love to read, and I couldn’t understand why my daughter didn’t. I’ve role modeled a love of books her entire life! I’ve also felt like a failure as a parent because of it. Her summaries were sloppy, not focused on the main points. There were few books she loved. There were months where I helped her finish her monthly book reports far more than I felt comfortable doing, and there were months it didn’t get done. Her grades in that subject struggled, and I struggled with ideas for motivating her.
I think it’s a combination of all of the above, and a few others, that have made this year so different. Her English teacher this year is her favorite, so there’s more intrinsic motivation, and less willingness to tolerate disappointment from this teacher’s eyes. As I write this, she has laughed out loud plenty reading this installment of Harry Potter, one of her greatest current obsessions. This is her last installment of reading for this week, and not once has she checked the timer to see how much time she has left.
However long it took to get here, however many factors play into us being here now, I can only hope that struggles with reading are in the past.
April McCaffery is the single parent to two daughters, in 6th and 9th grade.