One of the things I imagined for myself as a parent was having in-depth philosophical conversations about books with my children. Then, I actually had children.
I did everything “right”: I started reading to them immediately, every day, explaining how new worlds open up when you can read, how you’ll never be bored if you have a book (all the while thinking ‘shut up! You sound like your mother!’). I even read to them while I was still pregnant, just in case.
My youngest cannot yet read, and he seems to not even care about learning his letters. TBD I suppose. But my oldest – my oldest has actively hated the books I’ve tried to share with him from my childhood. He suffered through Charlotte’s Web recently, turning away from me and staring at the wall while I read chapters to him at night as if trying to retreat to a happy place in his head in which he could not hear my voice.
He is in third grade, so I know he’s not old enough to have formed lifelong habits (or non-habits as is the case with reading). But I was irrationally sad when I received a notification on a test at his school that surmised he was reading at only a first grade level. I’m no teacher, but even I thought this seemed wrong. When I spoke to his teacher about it she informed me that the reason he scored so low was because he completed his test in less than three minutes – it was supposed to take 20 – because he didn’t want to “waste his time” reading. This was very much like him poking me in the eye with a sharp stick.
Recently, though, something changed. I am thanking the book The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate for this. E has 20 minutes of daily reading required by his teacher. He went from setting a timer for exactly 20 minutes and staring it down the whole time, to voluntarily reading for 40-60 minutes without a timer. The first time he did it he said it was easy because the book had “sucked him in.” My heart grew three sizes that day. And then, when he finished the book, my heart actually exploded when he casually said “Mom, you should read this book.” Here it was, our first shared book. I got so excited I read the book as fast as humanly possible so I could have a conversation with him about it. Here is how this conversation just went down:
Me: “E, I just finished that book you recommended.”
E: “Did you like it?”
Me: “I loved it” (here I paused to wipe away a tear) “but it was so sad. Also it was beautiful. I had so many feelings about it. What did you think?”
Me: “E, what did you think?”
E: *walking away* “Good, uh huh, good…”
For now, it’s enough.