board books · reading · reading conveys love · siblings · slice of life

Turning a Corner

On Friday, Ari grabbed a board book, handed it to Isabelle, and said, “Read this book.”

“No,” she replied.

“What do you mean ‘no’?” I asked from the kitchen where I was preparing a side dish for dinner. “If your brother asks you to read him a book that you can read, then you read it to him.”

Maybe that shouldn’t have been my response, but it was. I understand reading is hard for Isabelle, but she has made enormous progress this year thanks to her classroom teacher pulling her a few extra times a week, the in-school reading specialist, and an after school reading tutor twice a week. So, honestly, I think my response was measured considering the anger I felt bubbling up inside of me when she told Ari “no.”

“Fine, I’ll read it to him,” she replied.

She read to him begrudgingly. Yes, she read the words, but there was no warmth. I said nothing. After all, she was reading to him.


Like many classroom teachers, I often told my fourth and fifth graders who struggled with reading to read aloud to their younger siblings. Little kids don’t judge. They don’t point out mispronounced words or when you miss a word entirely. Many times, I found that the kids who actually did read aloud to their little brothers and sisters improved at a faster rate than kids who weren’t reading aloud to anyone.

There have been several occasions when Isabelle has read aloud to Ari in the past couple of years, but she hesitates. I think she genuinely worries that he’ll say something if she doesn’t get the words right.


On Sunday morning, Ari asked Isabelle to read to him again. This time, she said “yes.” She read book after book to him on the couch. I shot some videos clandestinely. I asked her if I could share them (I was thinking with her grandparents.) since she read beautifully. She said “no.” This time, I didn’t fight back.

This morning, Isabelle doesn’t have school. I asked her to get dressed. She said, “I want to go and see what Ari is doing.” I didn’t argue with her since, after all, it’s a national holiday. AND, I knew Ari was reading board books on his bedroom floor.

A few minutes later, I overheard Isabelle’s voice reading books aloud to Ari. I tiptoed into the bedroom and took a video. Then, I took a photo (since I haven’t been restricted from sharing those) of Isabelle and Ari reading a book together. My heart was bursting when I noticed them surrounded with a pile of books.

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33 thoughts on “Turning a Corner

  1. Pure and utter delight. Isabelle gets it all for sure. Your modeling and love has kept her going and she is able to internalize and make good choices without a lecture. It is lovely to see and I know that her reading fluency will begin to increase the more she is reading to her brother. These stories are heartwarming and informative. Thank you, again.

  2. This is a heartwarming story, Stacey. You have given me the inspiration to write about my grandbaby’s discovery of books. Your photo is touching. Isabelle has moved beyond her comfort zone to enter the world of read alouds and she is doing it with close body contact and pleasure. Ari looks so interested. Your heart must have been pitter pattering this morning as you watched this wonderful duo bond.

  3. I wonder where we learn that fear of being criticized if we make a mistake. I know I still have it and know it shouldn’t bother me. Isabelle’s confidence in herself is blossoming. How wonderful.

  4. Such a sweet picture and such progress! I have a reluctant reader over here who is making progress but still does not ever elect to read on his own. His sister loves to read and is making great progress in kindergarten. It is an interesting dynamic. I think it’s nice for Isabelle that Ari is so much younger and can enjoy her reading and the time together. For Isabelle, it’s lovely to have an eager listener who doesn’t judge her performance….just enjoys the time together.

  5. Beyond fabulous! I absolutely love how the mom feelings you captured – frustration, anger, annoyance! And then, the end just warms my heart! It is so true that developing readers need a judge free audience, time, and space to realize that they too are readers! Thanks for sharing this beautiful moment in your home!!

  6. I am happy for all three of you – for Isabelle improving her reading, for Ari for read aloud experience, for you to see this heart-warming sibling readership. Wishing you more of these joyous moments!

  7. Beautiful picture, beautiful slice! I think your response to Isabelle was perfect. In a sense it put reading on a level sphere with other activities that don’t have the “weight” of something that’s been a struggle. The message was simply, if you can help someone when they need it, you do it. It’s not about reading. It’s about helping. Clearly, now she’s discovered the joy in reading to her brother. What a win for all of you!

  8. What a beautiful, vulnerable slice (capturing the truth of what home often looks like between siblings). My daughter, too, initially struggled as a reader. She ended up reading to our dog! This helped a lot.

    I love the picture at the end.

  9. So precious! I have a younger brother and truly loved when he asked for homework help or to read books aloud to him – makes me think of a sweet sweet time in my life! I’m also a special educator so it warms my heart to hear from the parent of a struggling reader who encourages her child at home to build confidence and says “you CAN” more than “you CAN’T.” Love!

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