I arrived home late last night. My day had been consumed by participation on an interview committee, and it had pushed my usual return to our snowy driveway well into a foreign hour, around 6 p.m. Leaving my empty coffee cup and laptop bag in the car, I hurried to the front door, hoping all was well with my family. It was the ‘witching hour’, and I silently hoped my children had not transformed themselves into little ghouls and tied my wife to the piano. I exaggerate. They’re wonderful, all of them. But all parents know how stressful this hour can be. So I was a little worried. It had been a long day for my wife, and I knew that.
However, upon opening the door, two little kindergartener feet scurried up to me for a warm, hug-filled greeting. Lifting my second daughter, Lexi, up off her feet, I squeezed her and looked at her face. All smiles. No ghoul. There she was. Then she was back down, rushing away and mumbling something I couldn’t quite make out. It sounded maybe like, “…show you something,” but I wasn’t quite positive. She disappeared into the house.
As I entered the kitchen, aromas of black beans and rice swirled about in the air. My wife had started cooking. We began to exchange details of our respective days. Suddenly, Lexi padded in. “Papa, I want to show you something! I’m reading this book. But… what’s this word?” She held up our tattered copy of Cynthia Rylant’s Henry and Mudge: Sparkle Days, and pointed to the word ‘winter.’
In my best reading-specialist-as-parent voice, I gently instructed, “Well, can we try sounding it out?”
Lexi pointed to the word. “Win…” Pause. “Win…turr. Winter!”
“Yes! Are you reading this book, honey? Wow!” Here I must make a confession. My children do not yet read a ton at home. Yes, we read every night before bed. Other than that, it is hit and miss sometimes with reading-as-a-leisure-activity around here. But I’ve made a conscious decision not to force my children to read. I believe forcing them to read now could have an adverse effect on them as readers in future years. I believe they will grow up to be readers, all of them, but coercion and requisite reading time has not yet appealed to me as the route from here to there. Yet, here was my kindergartener, independently picking up a first grade book and really giving it her all.
Breaking with tradition, my wife and I allowed Lexi to continue reading the book while we all ate dinner that night. It seemed one of those precious moments for both growth and celebration. And I was reminded what a miracle reading is, and how fun it is to watch kids improve as readers. It is truly golden. I thought back to the time- not all that long ago- when Lexi was still working to learn the sounds associated with letters. Now, here she sat, independently decoding many of the words in a beloved book she had heard many times read to her.
I leaned close to Lexi and whispered, “Are you proud of yourself, honey?”
Her blue eyes met mine. “Yes,” she nodded.