The square caps on their heads and scrolls in their hands made my daughters look far older than five-years-old, until the eruption of a “diploma” sword-fight rolled the clock back to our present time. They are still my babies — their academic dress was made of construction paper — but there’s no doubt that they have passed a major milestone: Pre-K graduation.
This fall, my twins will enter kindergarten. Both are anxious about this next step, but for different reasons. My social butterfly is sad about leaving her friends from preschool, while her sister has other concerns, including: “I can’t read!” She recognizes a growing list of words by sight, and she can sound out small words, but she isn’t quite an independent reader. Her sister is at a similar pre-reading level, but is so unconcerned as to be nearly oblivious.
I’ve told my perfectionist daughter that being able to read is not a requirement of attending kindergarten, and that her peers will fall in different places along the reading spectrum, but she finds little comfort in being somewhere in the middle.
She replies, “Well, four of my friends can read. They read to the whole class.” (That means most of the class doesn’t know how to read yet, but she doesn’t see it that way.)
“You want to read to the class, too?”
“No, I want to read to myself. I want to know what all my books say.”
With only limited memories of my pre-reading life, I can only imagine how disheartening it must have been to be surrounded by books I couldn’t enjoy on my own. I can understand why my daughter is so eager to curl up with her favorites.
“It’ll happen eventually,” I assure her.
“I want it to happen now.” She looks at me gravely. “I don’t want to go to my new school.”
“Your new teachers will help you learn to read. In the meantime, you can practice reading with me. We can work on it every day, if that will make you feel better.”
I don’t know the best strategies for teaching a child to read, but if my daughter is anything like I am (we joke that she’s my personality twin), then actively working towards her goal little by little will probably increase her sense of control over the matter.
So, we’ve continued to do what we’ve always been doing, just more of it. That means that our daily reading list has grown. Sometimes the girls want to read the books with me — sounding out, recognizing, or predicting the words as we go along — and sometimes they just want to listen. We’re having fun.
Both of my girls have become more comfortable reading aloud. More importantly, particularly for my anxiety-prone daughter, they have learned to accept that mistakes happen, that learning how to read takes time, and that it requires practice.
My daughter’s perfectionism still resurfaces from time to time, though. While reading a Winnie the Pooh book, for example, the misspelling of Pooh’s favorite food on the drawing of a pot bothered my daughter after she had learned the proper spelling of that word from the Berenstain Bears. She exclaimed, while shaking her head emphatically and wagging her finger, “Hey, H-U-N-N-Y isn’t right! Doesn’t that illustrator know how to spell?!” (I must admit feeling a hint of my own frustration at the misspelled word when I’m teaching my children how to read and write!).
I have no doubt that my daughters will be reading on their own in no time (fingers crossed!), but it seems that helping my personality twin develop the coping skills she’ll need to address her anxiety and perfectionism will likely be a tougher challenge.
PS. On Monday, I celebrated a milestone, too: A full year of blogging!