Written by Kara Anderson
I took a picture.
Not one to share, not even one on my phone or camera because lately that doesn’t always go over so well. (Growing up and all that.)
But I took a little mental picture and deposited it in my brain bank.
Because it was good and special and important.
And I wanted to be excited, so I told two friends.
I said something along the lines of, “I don’t know if I’ve told you this, but reading for fun didn’t necessarily happen right away for my girl. But today she is curled up reading Socks on the couch, and it makes me so happy …”
I said “happy” but I probably meant part happy, part relieved – you know how those things go when you are homeschooling.
The thing is, my child has never been a reluctant reader. If anything, she has always been eager, and ambitious when it comes to books, which is, of course, its own kind of problem.
She wants them to be as quick and easy as they are for her older brother.
(Last year, that older brother won third place in the library summer reading program contest, but more on that in a minute.)
And so for a while she has been grabbing those big books and trying – trying to speed through them like a little reading machine.
Things would be good for a while, but then the frustration would hit, and for a minute she would forget about the other options available – audiobooks, reading a book together, the 40 billion other books out there that don’t weigh as much as our car …
So I would try to gently remind her.
When she listened to The One and Only Ivan she cried, but she also told me through those tears, “Mama – it’s just such a good book.”
Later she borrowed it from the library and read through it.
Once, she saw it in Target and remembered only the good things – that she had enjoyed it; that it had been sad, but good.
It’s been challenging for me as her mom to see her so ready for BIG stories, but not quite ready to tackle reading them.
It’s been something different as a homeschooling mama.
Because of course we have those extra worries.
Should I be working on phonics or some business?
Does she need glasses or a medical evaluation?
Did I ruin her forever making her listen to a read-aloud she didn’t love? I mean, I can’t think of one, but it could have happened, right?
So seeing her on that couch was a nice feeling – a peaceful feeling.
She just needed time.
She needed an easy, fun series of about 400 books about baking and crushes and friendships.
Because she read five of those, and they helped build her confidence.
And that should be the end of this success story, right?
Last week, I got a phone call from the library.
Apparently, my girl is still a few books short of meeting “her summer reading goal!”
This is a goal set by the library for participants in the summer reading program.
I have to tell you that I love our summer reading program, but I sort of hate prize-based summer reading programs in general.
I hate the cheap trinkets and I can never keep track of the charts and if I’m being honest, I kind of don’t love the whole idea of rewarding kids for reading.
I’m not a jerk – I get that these programs are intended to keep kids reading in the summer months, but I guess I’m one of those people who wants kids to read because reading is fantastic, not so they can get a mini beach ball and a coupon for a Subway sandwich.
Still, we sign up for our reading program because the events are wonderful. They bring in speakers and stage elaborate games and challenges. They do the kinds of art projects you see on Pinterest, but don’t do yourself because collecting 200 just-silver crayons is not an actual thing average people can do.
And so it’s great, and it’s always been great, and up until this year, my kids have ripped through the “reading requirements” in a couple of weeks and I’ve given it almost no thought.
Until that phone call. That damn phone call.
That damn phone call that I’m not telling my kid about – that’s for sure.
Because yes, I could hand her a couple of picture books and help her log them, and then take her to collect her velcro wallet and whistle on a string and sheet of stickers.
Or I could let her keep discovering the joy of reading on our couch, and toss the reading logs and just buy her a Subway sandwich, not that she wants one.
I told our friend Library Dave (from the other library – it’s complicated) about my predicament and he declared that he wouldn’t go back to that library ever again.
I understood his point of view, but I also quickly remembered the joy my daughter had gotten earlier that day taking part in the library’s Chocolate Olympics event.
She did well and shared the spoils.
Sometimes in this life you have to decide it you are going to be full of righteous indignation or chocolate.
If I think about this business too long, I start to think about what my friend Kortney said about what might happen to kids like mine in a public school setting if they didn’t meet those reading requirements according to the pre-set timeline.
I wonder if my child would have felt pushed this past year, and just read the junk she needed to, learning the whole time that reading is simply a means to an end.
So thank goodness for homeschooling, and how it allows our kids’ loves to unfold in their own time. Thank goodness for freedom and long summer days, and Beverly Cleary and the fact that we’re just a little bit rebels.
Do you think anyone is going to remember that the summer my youngest became a voracious reader was the same summer Mom threw away all the reading logs?
But I’m going to remember her curled up with Socks.
Because I have my mental picture, and my girl has her books.
I think we’re going to be OK.