Obsessing about not reading / not obsessing about reading


The paths to literacy theme continues.

This post is for everyone with a late reader.

2009. These days, I’m working really hard on not obsessing about reading, because both of mine are so close, and the non-unschooler in me wants to jump out and push them over the edge… do some phonics drills… pull out some flash cards… instead, I take a deep breath, remember that they learned to swim without me tossing them into the deep end OR signing them up for six levels of swim lessons, and patiently read Calvin & Hobbes for the 112th time and try to come to terms with the fact that come summer, Cinder is pretty much guaranteed to act out the panels in which Calvin soaks his mom with a water balloon…

This reassures me:

Yesterday, I had one of those foggy days (I blame the Calgary chinook and an attempt to cram two weeks worth of work into two days), and ended up 1) putting a pyrex pan on the stove after washing it 2) filling it with an assortment of cutlery as I did the dishes 3) leaving it there 4) putting a pot of soup on the adjoining burner 5) turning on the wrong one 6) wandering off into another part of the house and forgetting all about it…


“Mom, mom, the coolest thing just happened! There’s been an explosion in the kitchen!”

I walk into the kitchen―the children are both standing on the kitchen table, looking in awe at shards of glass splattered EVERYWHERE : on the stove, the counters, in the sink, on the floor.

“The forks and knives just went flying, Mom! It was awesome! What did you do?”

Meanwhile, I start letting out a variety of words, most of them foul and four-lettered… The dog wanders in, of course, traumatized and curious… I carry children out of the kitchen, ask them to keep the dog out of the kitchen, and start cleaning up. 15 minutes later, as I’m cleaning the last of the glass off the stove–and still swearing–Cinder climbs into the kitchen throwing books and boxes in front of him as stepping stones–and comes to stand beside me. I try to stop swearing.

“Don’t worry, Mom. This is how most great scientific discoveries happened–by accident. Now, did you learn anything you didn’t know from this?”

Cinder’s mother looks at him bleary-eyed, because she is so not in that frame of mind right now. She starts blathering about turning on the wrong burner, she can’t believe she did that, aaargh, she knows that even baking glass dishes will shatter because this is the third time she’s done this! (She does the third-person dissociation thing at
times like this. It’s kind of odd.)

“Don’t worry, Mom,” he says again. “Maybe one day I’ll invent a kind of glass that doesn’t totally shatter when you do this, and then it will never happen again.”

And then he mourns that glass is not magnetic, because it if was, he could use his magnet to pick up all the tiny little pieces…

Kids rock.

First published January 31, 2009, on Unschooling Canada

Back to 2013: Why did I sell this post to you as to helpful to those with late-readers? Because it illustrates, beautifully, that just because they’re not learning to read doesn’t mean they’re not learning. Right?

And do you know what happened here yesterday? Cinder read a chapter in Geoff Smith’s Bone. Yeah, he’ll be 11 in a month―first time he’s worked, bubble by bubble, through a chunk of text. Eloquently. Joyfully. “I finally get why reading is fun,” he said afterwards. “Like, once you know what all the words say, it’s actually easy.”

Across the room, Flora, nose in Danny Dragonbreath, umphs. And on the floor, Ender adds, “My favourite letter is O.”



4 responses to “Obsessing about not reading / not obsessing about reading

  1. Pingback: How wrestling, Lego and Star Wars role playing all help raise readers | Undogmatic Unschoolers·

  2. Pingback: Undogmatic Unschoolers: How wrestling, Lego and Star Wars role playing all help raise readers et al. | Marzena Czarnecka, Writer·

  3. Pingback: “I was really patient with my late reader, but now he’s eight!” or, why (and how) to be patient still | Undogmatic Unschoolers·

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