When Maggie Learned to Read

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early reader

As a child, I could be found tucked away in my favourite tree reading all of the childhood classics. Reading connected me to people and experiences even in the most difficult times. That old tale really is true, reading really can carry us off to faraway places, while we sit in our own cozy and familiar homes….what a cherished gift to enjoy at a time like this. 

My hope for Maggie was that she, too, would take to reading as quickly and as excitedly as I did, and I couldn’t help but feel cheated, when she didn’t jump for joy as we snuggled in to practice together; in fact, often our reading time together would end with her in tears, and she would say the words I hoped I’d never hear, ” I hate reading”. 

My purpose in homeschooling is to create a love of learning and for it to be self-directed.

 I hope to infuse learning with joy, so that our kids will know how to make something that looks like work…fun. This scenario made me realize that I was applying this to all other areas of our lives except for reading, and I was pushing because I was fearful. 

I think we feel pressured to have young readers because we’ve been lead to believe that early readers are more intelligent, and we fear that children who read later will fall behind. We also worry that if our kids don’t read by a certain age, we’ll be the parents of ‘one of those kids’…you know the ones…the ones who struggled to read aloud when it was their turn in class. We worry that if they aren’t in the early reading group, that they’ll be made fun of. We want them to be better than us.I think for schooled children, there is a valid concern when it comes to ‘falling behind’, where as, home-based learners are only racing against themselves. The content is tailored to them so they can thrive  at their level. 

The truth is, we can’t outrun a learning disability. If our children are going to fall behind the expectations because of a steeper personal learning curve, this will happen regardless, and then, we’ll seek out the tools to help them. Chances are, if our children are floundering because of their unique learning style (I’ve raised one of those too and have learned so much because of him), reading is going to become unpleasant if we push and push and push. 


Here’s what happened with Maggie. 

She was 6. 

Just a baby. 

She knew all of her letter sounds and grasped the concept of blending. We played games (more on that later) to encourage these skills, but she hated to read aloud to me. 

So I let it go

…but occasionally, I’d be driving and need a text message to be read (“can you try your best? I really need to know what they said”), or someone to write something on my shopping list (choc-o-late ch-ips), or we’d be baking and she’d tell me which ingredients we needed from the recipe, but I never asked her to read another book. 

We carried on like this for months.

And then, on this magical evening, just before she turned 7, I found her after her bath, fleece pjs snug around her body, hair up in a towel, waiting for her brother to hop into bed before we turned out their light, and she was reading a small novel, on her own, because she wanted to. 

She has had a book in her hands ever since. 

SO many childhood milestones are like this…we lay out the tools for success and fill their hearts with encouragement, and just let it ride out….suddenly, they can walk. 

And if something seems amiss, we seek out the tools and the help they need to carry them to that next step, but ultimately, it’s up to them.

Kids don’t have to read when they’re wee, especially in a home environment where they don’t have to swim faster than they’re prepared to in order to keep up. There is no one to race with. 

What I noticed as soon as Maggie could read, is that she grew up, overnight.

 Her imagination-based play moved from her toys and into her mind where she began to piece together bits and pieces of the world at a much quicker rate than she previously could. It didn’t all feel happy. It felt very abrupt. Of course, we hope they will read so they can learn, but sometimes, they can learn so much so quickly. I wasn’t prepared for that transition. 

With our next child, I don’t feel as urgent. There is all the time ahead for young children to learn about the world, and we’re not in a hurry, here at home. 



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