Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Reader

Last year at this time we were struggling. Struggling with what to do with Evan and school for this year.

After a lot of talking to friends, teachers and each other and ultimately listening to Evan and where he said he felt comfortable, we made our decision. He moved on to first grade this year and he has done fantastic.The main issues we worried about with him were reading and writing. In all other subjects he was right smack dab where he should be -with reading and writing he really struggled.

His first semester report card showed no evidence of any struggle. He presented me with the best report card I have ever seen one of my kids bring home. They are graded on a point system of one to five. Five means they are meeting expectations consistently and fours are meeting expectations most of the time, all the way down to one which is not meeting expectations. He had all fives except for one four. And he was totally bummed out about the four. I was thrilled with his grades, but a little skeptical, I mean if a kid is all fives right off the bat, where is he to go but down?

At his parent teacher conference his teacher had glowing things to say about him. She showed us writing samples that he did, and I don't think anyone could have wiped the smile off of my face. The difference in his writing in a matter of five months was unbelievable. He went from a paper with basically random letters strewn about it to complete sentences that we could read. We voiced to her our concerns from the previous spring and how we considered holding him back because of the reading and writing. She admitted to us that those subjects were not his strongest areas. He was a slow reader and lacked confidence in his abilities.

In his January report card, his grade in reading had dropped a bit. I was starting to worry a little that he was slipping behind. His teacher suggested that he needed more reading time at home. I tried to think of creative ways to get him reading. He is extremely critical of himself and very sensitive and to tell him that he has to read because he needs help in that area would totally make him shut down. So our reading time at night became the time we worked on it. I would read a book that Hailey picked out. Spencer would read his book and then Evan would read the book he picked, or we would take turns every other page if it had a lot of words. He seemed to like reading to all of us and it didn't seem out of the ordinary since Spencer was doing it as well.

A little over a month ago, something happened. One night after reading our books, he stayed in the bed with me and snuggled up and told me out of the blue that he was a good reader. I asked him if his teacher had told him that? He said "No, I just know that I am." It was like in that moment someone had flipped on a confidence switch in him. I swear I could almost see it.

His confidence started to escalate at the beginning of March - reading month. Each family in the school was sent home a copy of the book "The Indian in the Cupboard" to read aloud as a family each night. Every day the principal would call via the school wide alert system to ask a question about the chapter that was to be read that night. To say my boys loved this would be a gross understatement. This book was one of the highlights of their days. They fought over who got to answer the question and then fought over what the right answer was. They were having a "book club" at ages six and nine! I remember one night after our chapter Evan asked me "How many more chapters are there?" I told him there were four more and why did he want to know? Didn't he like the book? Was he that excited to get it over with? He replied "No! I LOVE the book! I wish it had a hundred more chapters!" By the way, I don't want to spoil the book for anyone that hasn't and wants to read it, but I was so choked up while reading the end of the book. I was trying to pull myself together but I had a huge lump in my throat and tears streaming down my face. I had to take a moment to compose myself and the kids were looking at me like I was insane. Hailey kept climbing onto the couch and patting my shoulder asking me if I was OK. I guess that is why I cried my eyes out at the end of Toy Story 3 - there's just something about kids and their toys.

Another part of reading month was a sort of contest they had at the school to get kids to read books and then have people pledge money to them that they would ultimately donate to buy books for children in Haiti. They called it "Helping Hands for Haiti". Each book you read, you write on a construction paper hand cut out and then it was displayed at the school. If you were not reading chapter books, you could read five smaller books and write them on the fingers to fill up your hand. Evan got really into this. The first night that he told me about the hands, he immediately asked if he could read some books to me. He came down from his room with a pile of them and I dug through until I found some easy readers. He read four books in no time with hardly any hang ups. I told him that he only needed one more book to fill his hand and then he could turn it in. He wanted to read another one. He ran back up to his room and came down with a book that I thought would be way too hard for him. He flew through it. He got stuck a few times, but he read it so much better than I thought he would. I was amazed. He had confidence. He knew he could do it. He gets to a word he doesn't know and I can hear him sounding it out. If the word still doesn't make sense to him, he will change the vowel sound from short to long until he figures it out. He has worked hard to get this far. I am so proud of him.

When I tuck him into bed at night he previously would play with his LEGOS or his Star Wars guys or talk to his dogs. Now he reads. Before when I would suggest that he read books or look at them on his own he would tell me "I don't want to. I can't read". Now he devours books. I will be sitting down on the couch watching TV and he will pop out of his room and yell over the stairs to me what book he just finished. My heart just swells up three sizes like that graphic of the Grinch. I can't say enough how proud I am of him.

He is a reader.


dr said...

I love this post! It totally made my eyes well up. You have done such a great job of instilling a love of reading in your boys. I am proud of Evan, too. What an awesome thing for him to "get it."

Brandi said...

That is so awesome!!! :)

Bubba loves to read. He got hooked on those Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and he's blown through 3 of them in a matter of weeks. He gets free time when school is complete (which he usually uses to play video games) and I have found the child READING instead of playing video games!

jensenbo said...

I'm so proud of you, Voo. You can be my reader anytime!!