Sunday, January 26, 2014

My Newest Not So Reluctant Reader, Maybe?

I have a student who shall remain nameless in order to protect her identity as a kid who "hates to read". On Friday, I sent said student to straighten up the classroom library. It just so happened that her space was already in perfect order when I gave the kids time to clean out their desks, and she needed something else to do. I wish I could say that I had a devious ulterior motive for choosing this particular job for this particular child, but, alas, I did not. The library happened to be in my line of vision when she asked what she could do next, and, truth be told, the shelves looked a little messy.

Now fast forward five minutes to when I looked over in the library and I noticed my lovely little reading-hater looking at a book. At that instant, I didn't give it a lot of thought. Oblivious to what what was about to come, I simply went on organizing the mountain of mess on my own desk, and forgot about the library cleanup job. A couple minutes later, I turned around, and the library cleaner-upper was standing in front of me holding a book. 

I must pause at this point in the story and point out that this young lady has loudly and repeatedly professed her dislike of reading all year. So much so that I told her it had become my personal mission to get her to like just one book before June. And if you haven't already figured it out, this little lady tugs at my heart strings. She is about as lovely a young woman as you will ever meet and one of the most cooperative and sincerest of learners I have ever had the pleasure of teaching, BUT she has a severe reading disability which interferes with the matching of sounds to letters. If you've ever read anything, you know that being able to consistently and automatically call up a sound when you see a letter is pretty important. I'm not surprised she hates reading. It's been a Herculean task for her to make the modest reading progress she has made so far, and I don't blame her for wanting to avoid independent reading like it is the plague. I feel like an ogre sometimes when I remind her that the only way she is going to get better at reading is if she READS. It's like having to give your child the worst tasting medicine in the world. You feel bad, but you do it because you know it's the only thing that is going to cure what ails them. Luckily, this girl trusts me, and she has been heeding my advice. Together, we have tried four or five different series of books this year that are on her reading level, without being insultingly immature for her chronological age. She's hated some of them, tolerated a couple, even liked a few, but in spite of her fluctuating level of enthusiasm she has done as I've asked and READ, twenty minutes a night, four nights a week. Like a good little patient, she has taken her medicine. 

Knowing the backstory, I hope you can now fully enjoy the climax of this little anecdote. Travel back with me to Friday when I turned around, and Little Miss I Don't Like to Read was standing there with a novel in her hand. I looked at her and she very shyly asked, "Would it be OK if I checked this out from the library?" I resisted the urge to backflip across the room, fire a confetti cannon, and expel all the oxygen in my lungs screaming, "YYYYEEESSSS!" Instead, I smiled politely and said, "Sure, you can."

My celebration may be premature, but I decided to revel in it just a bit, nevertheless. Maybe this won't be THE BOOK for my little friend. It might turn out to still be a a tad too difficult. Maybe it won't live up to the title and the blurb on the back that caught her attention, but that's not important. What is important is that this little girl who has never thought of herself as a reader ASKED to take home a NOVEL. In order for that to happen, she had to have the confidence in herself to think she could read it, and she had to have the intrinsic motivation to want to read the story for her own entertainment. And that my friends, is reason enough for me to celebrate!

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