library · nonfiction · reading · slice of life

Growing a Reader

And we grow, and we grow, and we grow.

And we grow, and we grow, and we grow.

The Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, which is a festival that celebrates trees, is behind us. YET, I got “The Tree Song,” which I learned in Ari’s music class, stuck in my head this morning after I observed Isabelle:

Do you know what she’s doing?

Was she watching “CNN 10?” Nope, she already did that.

Was she playing a game? No.

Was she listening to music? Wrong again.

What was she doing? She was browsing for biographies to read on our county’s library website.

Why? Isabelle knows we’ll be transitioning to narrative nonfiction reading sometime in the next week and SHE wants to get prepared! She knows she’s responsible for picking people who interest her so she was on the prowl — before 8 a.m. — looking for just-right books. Isabelle doesn’t look at levels, which means she sometimes borrows a book that’s way too hard, but she takes it in stride. (NOTE: We do go to the library too. We just haven’t gone in the past week.) During the pandemic, Isabelle has come to enjoy researching books and reserving them with her library card. She uses the Apple Books app to see when new books by her favorite authors are coming out and to discover new books. It’s quite adorable.

Is this a big deal? YES!

Isabelle has Dyslexia, but over the years, she’s come to love reading. Gone are the days when she browses for books from a limited basket. Gone are the days that she yells when the “words are tricking” her — even though they still trick her. Nowadays, she self-selects books and tracks what she reads using Book Buddy. (Once she’s 12, I’m planning to introduce her to The Storygraph.) My daughter is living proof that a balanced literacy approach can work in concert with Orton-Gillingham. (That’s right. I’m in the both camp!)

I’ve grown a reader… with the help of her past teachers, past and present tutors, her speech therapist, and with the guidance of my mentors. It’s a beautiful thing to witness your child taking the initiative to seek out books, which is why I did a double-take this morning. I went back downstairs just so I could snap a photo since I wanted to preserve this moment.

Just like the tree in “The Tree Song,” Isabelle still has more growth ahead of her. I feel fortunate to be observing her growth as a literate human so closely this year. It is remarkable.

Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more slice of life stories.

7 thoughts on “Growing a Reader

  1. I love so much about your piece. First, it is a feel-good story! Congrats to your daughter’s reading success. I also love how the comparison of Isabel to the trees through the song at the beginning and the end. And I appreciate the links to the apps. And I want to now go look up the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat. I love it when writing pushes me to read more!

    I also want to recommend checking out the book The Passover Guest by Susan Kusel. It won a Sydney Taylor Book Award yesterday. The author’s son goes to my school and she had just worked with us last Wednesday, teaching us about book awards as she was on the Caldecott Committee the year they picked Beekle as the winner. (My students are in a MOck Sibert Award Unit). My students were so excited yesterday when her book won a sticker!!! She said the original setting of this old story was Poland but she changed it to be Washington, D.C. for her picture book. I think you and your family will enjoy reading Susan’s now award winning book!!

  2. Stacey,
    I ❤️ this so much. I’m in awe of your parenting, your teaching, your steadfastness in learning how best to “raise a literate human.” Isabelle is a rock star. I love the photo of her and know this struggle to read from my own recent struggles and those of my sister who did not have the guidance of a teacher and mother like you. I can’t wait to read about more of Isabelle’s reading successes. My heart is full reading about your daughter and Kim Johnson’s. You are both amazing women. I really needed these posts and this community today.

  3. This is so very heartening to hear. As a mom who tended her seeds and seedlings and saplings for years, i know how hard it is to raise a child who loves – and takes charge of! – the reading journey. My younger one is 18, and I *think* he’s finally in a place where he’s admitting to the fact that he might actually enjoy reading. Go figure! =))

  4. Oh my heart sings as I watch this one grow over the years I have followed Two Writing Teachers. I hold a special place for her as I was a child who struggled to read and write way back in the last ’50’s. There was little help or interest in helping but I had two Aunts (who were teachers) who just kept giving me books of all kinds and indeed I grew into reading, and teaching reading and now sharing reading with my grandson! The world of books is a wonderful place. Be proud Mom!

  5. Hooray! As the fellow mother of a dyslexic, I know this joy. I am so pleased for both you and Isabelle. Reading is such a wonderful portal to the world – and now she has it! And I honestly don’t know how someone can’t be in both camps about reading: we need the phonics *and* the balanced literacy with choice. HOORAY all over again!

  6. Thank for a clear example of a true balance position. In my professional life the balance is swinging wildly away from balanced literacy. A steady diet of what each child needs. That’s what’s in order. Thanks for the testimonial.

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