“I will read when I can read,” were my sons words. At age ten he is on the edge of flying into the world of words. The ‘not being able’ to read phase will soon be a sweet memory. I sit with him as he speaks the words out, I see a big complex word on the page and part of me hopes he will stumble, which is a funny thing to admit, since it is counter to how I was a few years ago around reading. You see the tipping point is coming, he is on the edge of it and it is a delicious honor to witness a child learning to read at their own pace. Like that moment when they learn to walk, or swim—it feels magical to me.
There was a point where words and I were like a team, we would corner the kids and attack. “You see that word?” I would say. “What does it say?” The kids would sometimes respond or sometimes they would ignore me. I was trying to speed up the process. I thought they needed to read when I wanted them to.
One day my daughter quite honestly said to me, “Mum, can you just leave me alone around reading because I don’t think you are helping me.” ‘
“Oh,” I said. And inside “but aren’t I meant to teach them? This is crazy! How on earth can they learn if I don’t teach them?”
She, in that moment was my greatest teacher. I saw her then go on to flourish, without me. Over time she cracked it. She didn’t want my help. So my son got the benefits of me stepping away around reading. Both our twin daughters are now avid readers; it is hard to get their noses out of books.
I imagined there would come a time when I would nostalgically want my son to slow down with his learning. For us within this process our kids have learned to read at their own pace as we have trusted them to do so. For our son it has always been him that has lead the process, not me. It is the same for spelling. He is learning it, as he wants to and I am not making him.
I think in a school situation, reading and my son would have had a hard time together. When he was in school he simply was not interested in reading, especially when everybody told him he had to. I am not sure that words would have been his friends. But in this way the door to reading is now opening and he is calmly walking through it at his own pace, leaving his mother outside. He is stepping into a world to which he holds the key.