Social media is full of perfect families, right? They sit down to a healthy meal each night, enjoy meaningful conversation, and then calmly tuck their children into bed. Is that what your house looks like? We’re usually scarfing down grilled cheese sandwiches as we run out the door to sports practices, my children laughing about burps and farts and me rolling my eyes. Sometimes bedtime is sweet and snuggly, and sometimes it looks like a game of whack-a-mole.
Despite our imperfections, we can all wake up each morning and try to do a little better than we did the day before. Sometimes we will, often we won’t.
We’ve always wanted this website to be a real reflection of real families and their day-to-day routine, and how reading can fit into that lifestyle in a manageable, enjoyable way. In that spirit, here are some confessions, both from the perspective of a parent trying to do her best, and a teacher acknowledging where she has fallen short.
Confessions of a Parent/Caregiver
I confess that on Friday and Saturday nights, I literally yell up the stairs as my kids are brushing their teeth, “I am NOT reading to anyone tonight! You’re going straight to sleep!” I’m not proud of that… what I am proud of is that my kids enjoy bedtime reading so much that not doing so requires a forceful declaration.
The preamble to this confession is that while we are strict about bedtime on school nights, we often let them stay up late on the weekends, and so reading for 20 minutes on top of an already late bedtime is just too much for me. I also take solace in the fact that we usually spend at least 30 minutes or more on a Saturday or Sunday reading (sometimes together, sometimes independently), just not at bedtime.
Forgive yourself: sometimes your family’s reading routine can and should be relaxed or altered in order to make it enjoyable, not forced.
I confess that in the early years of my children learning to read, I have often taken over halfway through a book or quickly told them what a word was as they struggled to sound it out. Let’s be honest, the beginning stages of becoming independent readers can be really excruciating for parents to push through. And yet it is essential that we give children the time and space and as much patience as we can muster to help them develop their skills.
I sometimes walk out of my youngest son’s bedroom reminding myself that tomorrow night I’ll do better. I try to take a big, deep breath before we settle into a 32-page Level 1 easy reader. I’m actually finding it less daunting with my second child. I now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Before long, I’ll miss his hesitations and lengthy read alouds. Soon he’ll be ignoring me in favor of chapter books he can read himself.
Remind yourself that this too shall pass. The more patience and excitement we show emerging readers, the more likely they are to develop a love of reading.
Confessions of a Teacher/Educator
I confess that I was unprepared to teach phonics to my first year of 4th grade students. The class I took in college that should have given me the skills needed to do so was taught by a series of substitutes when the professor became ill early in the semester. Even under perfect circumstances, one semester is hardly enough to cover such a key component of reading development.
So, I armed myself with one of my favorite teacher tool books, The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists, and set to work, trying to find a balance of books my 4th graders wanted and were ready for. I also investigated through reading and writing conferences where gaps in their phonics understanding prevented them from moving forward. My guess is that my confession will ring true to many new grads coming out of teacher training programs.
My advice: know your students, find the resources you need, and ask for help.
I confess that as a teacher, reading specialist, and school librarian, I am just now finishing the Harry Potter series. I read the first book when it became the obsession of students 20 years ago after it was first published. I sort of liked it, but the truth is, I’m just now starting to enjoy the fantasy genre. I watched the movies and faked my way through conversations with students about the books.
But reading the series side-by-side with my oldest child, I have enjoyed these books more than I ever expected. I now get the hype. As a mother I have ached over Lily Potter and Mrs. Weasley. As a teacher, Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall are on my list of role models. I can’t put a value on the conversations my son and I have shared about these books.
You won’t always have the same reading interests as your children or students, but do make an effort to familiarize yourself with their preferred books as a point of connection.
Don’t believe what you see on Facebook or Pinterest. There are no perfect parents or teachers. What is true? We’re all just a bunch of imperfect people trying to do right by our kids. If tonight’s bedtime reading ended in tears and frustration, or yesterday’s phonics lesson was a total flop, remember that the sun will rise again tomorrow, bringing with it an opportunity to try again.
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If you liked this post, you might enjoy our post full of tips to encourage a love of reading in every child.