See Caroline Read

I learned how to read well before kindergarten. My mother worked with me each night and I remember it wasn't always fun and it was definitely not easy. I have vivid memories of looking at the page and feeling so utterly unable to sound it out and truly having no idea what it said and how could I possibly ever understand this? Those were the days when my parents worked opposite shifts. Dad played Gargamel and Smurfs with us in the mornings and Mom handled dinner, activities, and bedtime. I remember reading to her in bed once and having her fall asleep. (Now that I'm a Mom, I understand how that could happen.) I learned to read with Dick and Jane. My father learned to read with Dick and Jane (maybe my mother too?) like most kids in the 50's. I held my father's books in my hands and while Caroline is using an updated version, the stories are the same.

Go, dick!
Go, Go, Go

She has come so far in the past few months. As an "early reader" myself, I have always encouraged her and sat with her and the Bob books, but she nearly always pouted or sighed heavily that "this was not fun." The very last thing I wanted was to push too hard and make her hate reading. At first she had little interest in letters at all and then later it seemed she was lacking confidence to even try to sound things out. I kept telling her over and over that she would love reading, that it would unlock unbelievable worlds for her.

We worried her confidence would not just get in her way, but set her back. How many other kindergarteners were reading? Was she the only one? Should we be worried? We are incredibly fortunate to live in a town with an amazing school system and they agreed with our concerns and set her up with some intensive literacy skill building in a small group. I hesitated to write about this because for the first time this feels like over sharing and it feels like it belongs to her and not me. I wondered what she would think to read this back when she is 12 or 17 or 39 and what it will mean to her that I shared it. So I feel it necessary to share also that she was doing well, meeting minimum requirements, but that they felt she would benefit from the additional time focusing on literacy. In any other town, she probably would not have gone to this group, but I am of the mindset that anything extra is worth exploring and I refused to let my own pride get in the way of her education. So older Caroline reading this years from now, you were doing fine honey, your teacher and parents just wanted you to be the absolute best you could be and we needed help to make that happen.

She brought home several short books a week, added to her sight word vocabulary, honed good reading behavior and before our eyes she blossomed. She couldn't wait to read to us about a cat's day spent meowing and licking his paws and cat napping. She smiled ear to ear when she took home a "B" book. We attended a literacy night for her school and I had tears in my eyes telling her reading specialist how amazed we were, asking her what else we could continue at home to keep the momentum going. With summer fast coming, I started to worry about how we at home could keep it light, make it fun and ensure she doesn't lose these skills. A Friday came and went and the weekend flew by as weekends always do. On a recent Monday morning, I pulled out the papers from Friday's school day and there was a letter from the principal stating she was meeting expectations for her grade level and she would not spend anymore time with the reading specialist. What great news right? Caroline cried because she loved going to her reading group. She loved her reading specialist. I wrote a note to this amazing catalyst myself that night, my words echoing her emotion. It was full of gratitude and mostly admiration. I wanted her to know how important and impactful she had been to Caroline.

Tonight she didn't want to stop, 68 pages in one session. She read most of those pages beside Connor who listened quietly and intently to her every word. You could tell she was so proud she could do this thing that he can't do. I can barely keep him still for a short book anytime of day that isn't bedtime. I'm sure I will find her with a hidden book and a flashlight any night now. (except she sleeps with a light on, so the flashlight probably won't be necessary.) It's going to be a summer full of new stories and the days she needs me to read it aloud or help her sound it out are numbered. I have wanted this for her for so long, but now it feels hard to imagine she is old enough to read it herself.

What books do you recommend for kindergarteners just starting out that they can read rather independently?

Caroline reads dick and Jane.


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