“What was in this package?” Corrigan stood in the kitchen doorway, waving an empty bag of cashews my toddler left behind.
I said, “Read it and find out.” This is a new response for me and her. But she’s ready. She can do it.
She stared at the words for a second then started the sounds. “Caaa-shh. Caaa-sh-ooz.”
“Cashews.” I smile. “That’s right. Good job.”
Corrigan is my kindergartner. She went to school this fall ready with letters and sounds swirling in her head. Her reading skills have grown exponentially each week. She brings her assigned books home. She holds me accountable for signing off on the minutes she’s read.
She’s learned to recognize patterns in books. I see a red shirt. I see a red apple. I see a red balloon. She knows identifying those patterns will help her read each word.
Recently, she said, “Do you know how many words I know?”
That number is so specific I wondered where she got it. She continued, “Last time I knew twenty-two.” She showed me a sticky note with four words written in an adult’s handwriting: live, want, with, all. “These are the words I need to work on.” She said she read a list of words—mostly likely without pictures or patterns, just text—to her teacher. It must have been an informal assessment of her progress.
Last summer Corrigan and I would read Green Eggs and Ham. Usually I read the sentence, and she read the rhyming word.
“I do not like them in a—“
“I do not like them with a—“
“I do not like them—“
“here or there.”
“I do not like them—“
This October, Corrigan brought Green Eggs and Ham to my bed where we read each night. She wanted to read the whole book by herself.
Forty minutes later, when we closed the cover, I told her she just read her most challenging book ever. She smiled.
The next night she brought Green Eggs and Ham in again. She said, “If I master this, I’ll be ready for chapter books.”
Well, not exactly, I thought. But I didn’t explain. Corrigan has a friend the same age who is already reading chapter books like Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth and Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer. To Corrigan, chapter books sound important, a prize for doing her studies.
The next night, my scholar raided the shelves for Bandit, a chapter book about a puppy who needs a home. The text is, of course, varied in vocabulary and sentence structure. Corrigan remained focused, stopping to sound out every other word. It felt like teaching her how to drive a stick shift. We spluttered along so slowly I would forget what the sentence even said.
When I heard one of Corrigan’s peers had been reading chapter books, I worried. Maybe I should’ve been teaching Corrigan to read, too. Maybe not pushing her to read will slow her down. But I let those thoughts go. I’ve been reading to her since she was in the womb. That counts.
Corrigan loves books and story time. Reading is so important to her that even on those nights when we get home late and we’re weary from the long drive and tell the kids to hop in bed, Corrigan insists. She picks out a story. She pursues us parents with methodical persistence. I knew she’d be a motivated student.
Corrigan is such a hard-working kindergartner she gets tired. She has mumbled through sentences such as “Mom wears a coat. I wear a coat,” as she nods off. When I carry her to her bed, she will protest, “I need to finish,” and then roll over to start her rest for another day of sounding out words.
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