What Does That Spell: When Kids Learn to Read

Over the last few months, my oldest daughter has definitely become an “emerging reader.” This means she is not sounding words out anymore, she’s just reading them, at least in books labelled “easy reader.” She’s quite a bit ahead of the average kindergarten kid, which was no surprise to us considering she’s always been so full of questions and interested in what all the letters say, and that she learned how to write her name before preschool.

Honestly, she probably could have learned to read a lot earlier if her parents had done even the minimum amount of required home reading this year, but we decided that it wouldn’t be good for her socially to get too far ahead. Okay, fine, that’s a blatant lie; it just sounds so much better than what actually happened. The truth is that she was doing so well we kind of just didn’t bother to read with her very often because listening to kids try to read when they are just learning is horribly annoying. (Kid: “T-t-t ha-ha-ha e-e-e. T-t-t ha-ha-ha e-e-e. Tah-ha-e. Tah-ha-e. Tah-ha-e.” Grown-up: “The. T-H-E spells the. Just like it did over there, earlier on this same page. This page has six words on it, and two of them are the! How do you not remember that? Why do we always wait until right before bed to practice reading? IT SAYS THE!”)

Anyway, despite our neglect, our daughter has learned to read. This new skill has brought changes to our little family, and while most of these changes are good, some are not. Here are some of the pros and cons of having a child who knows how to read, at least in my house.

PRO: A child who can read can take books into the car with them. This means they are happily entertained on the drive, screen-free, and you don’t have to entertain them by playing “I’m thinking of an animal!” or listening to the Frozen soundtrack again. Just buy a Frozen BOOK! It’s win-win!

CON: A child who reads in the car might vomit in the car.

PRO: A child who can read can successfully go to bed MUCH earlier than one who can’t. A little bedside lamp is the solution to all your evening-time problems. Add a clock to the mix and you don’t even need the follow-up “turn your light off now” conversation. Instead, have the earlier “show me I can trust you to turn your lamp off on your own” conversation, and then you can confidently forget to check until hours later when you stumble up to bed yourself.

CON: You can no longer spell things to other adults in front of your child. We learned this the hard way when I suggested to my husband that we could possibly go to the p-o-o-l that afternoon. “We’re going to go swimming!” G giddily exclaimed, and we were suddenly committed to that plan.

PRO: You CAN spell things to your child in front of her younger siblings. Do you want to avoid an argument about who gets the first turn to try the new drawing app on your iPhone? Promise her she can stay up l-a-t-e-r than her sisters, or get a c-o-o-k-i-e after dinner without having to provide explanations or excuses to the others.

CON: Children who can read are capable of reading things you’d really prefer they not read. Graffiti on the side of the road, the text you just sent about her to her father, the novel she pulled off the hallway bookshelf—and I don’t even want to think about the magazine covers in the grocery store checkout line.

PRO: Finally, for other parents in a situation similar to mine—those who have more than one child and whose oldest has just learned to read—there is one big pro that outweighs all the others. Big siblings who know how to read can read stories to the littler ones for you. This is simply amazing. A positive activity that your kids can do together that also gets you off the hook for something you should be doing yourself? Now THAT’s a win.

Raise a reader, everyone. For your own sake, if not for theirs.

Journal entries like this are another pro, of course.

Journal entries like this are another pro, of course.


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4 thoughts on “What Does That Spell: When Kids Learn to Read

  1. Jenny

    I had one of my “emerging reader” children argue vehemently with me that the word “dress” starts with the letter J: “‘You are not listening carefully mommy – LISTEN! It’s Jress, JRESS! You need to just sound it out”.

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