Hal has been slow to show an interest in reading. I see several factors in this, all of which are related to him being the baby of the family.
- We have not devoted nearly as much time to reading to him as we did for the older two. Our evenings, more often than not, have been full of his siblings’ extracurricular activities.
- We have relaxed and not pushed so much to get him to read, trusting in both his basic intelligence and the school system to get the job done within an age-appropriate window. No need to create another superstar.
- Electronic entertainment has been a reality for him at a much younger age than it was for his siblings. Why bother trying to read a book (in his mind) when you can task various plants to kill attacking zombies?
The effect of this has been that he entered Kindergarten unable to read. This is perfectly normal in the population at large, but a new scenario in our household. The older two were reading, and reading well enough to take comprehension exams over the book, by the same age. Daryl, at least, appeared to think this made his brother inferior in intellect.
And while I, of course, did not share his view, I did feel a little guilty for having not given Hal the same benefits as the others. With the advent of the school year came the reading log, with the reward of a free Pizza Hut pizza if at least 25 books were read each month. This motivated Hal to request reading time more frequently. It did not motivate him to attempt reading himself, though.
When we would sit down to read, he was typically not interested in trying to sound out the words. He just wanted us to read to him while he looked at the pictures. If you paused at a word and pointed at it, he’d grunt and complain that he didn’t want to read it. If you insisted, he’d scan the page looking for a visual clue on what the word might be. And then he’d guess. Even once he could correctly sound out the letters, he resisted putting it together.
In retrospect, this is not that different from when we worked with the older two. The main difference is that he is 2-3 years older than they were. And, unless my brain is playing tricks on me, much more stubborn.
So sometime last week, I told him to retrieve a book and he selected “Being Friends” – a book that Jane’s friend had given her for her fourth birthday. I smiled when I saw the tracing of the girl’s hands on the inside cover and the awkwardly scrawled name.
Opening the book to the first page, I noticed the words seemed Hal-appropriate simple: I like red. You like blue.
And so I pointed to the first word. He squirmed and protested. I said, “Oh, come on. This one is easy.” He read it. I pointed to the next word. It was apparently a sight word because he read it. And then the next one. I helped him with “you” and then he finished the page. Almost eagerly.
We progressed fairly rapidly through the book. He squirmed and twisted and barely stayed on the couch next to me. In fact, he often read while sitting on the floor, poking his head up somewhere near the book. He told me that he would read all the shorts ones and “the ones I know” while I was to read the long ones.
His squirming made it difficult to hold the book. When I said as much, he popped up onto the couch and grabbed the book. He set it firmly in his lap and took over word pointing duty. And read. And read. And read.
At one point, I jumped in for the long word in the sentence and he pounced on me. “I was going to read that one!” Yes, sir! I assured him that I would delay before reading any remaining long words, to give him a chance to try it if he wanted to.
Eventually, he showed the tell-tale signs of boredom. When asked to sound out a simple word, he’d stare and then shout out an absurd answer. I’d insist and he’d repeat. Point to the word cat. “kuh-kuh-kuh aa-aa-aa tuh-tuh-tuh… Poop!”
“Ok, so you are done? You want me to finish reading all the words?” I asked. He nodded. I began to read. I turned the page. He grabbed the book and resumed reading. Finally. The joy of successfully decoding the words on the page had infected him. Even when he tired of sitting still, he just couldn’t leave the task to me.
Finally. He was reading.