Endless Blessings by Kim Hole
As I sat in my children’s bedroom one evening this past fall trying to tackle the mountain of clean clothes still in the laundry basket, get pajamas onto my two year old who seemed entirely unable to stand still and reassure my 8 month old that he was not in jail as he whined from behind the bars of his crib my daughter asked if she could read a book to us. Hoping this would calm the whole situation I immediately said yes and continued with my tasks at hand. She had chosen There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves. At the time this was a more challenging book choice for her. I knew my attention was a bit scattered and I was tempted to suggest an easier choice that would require less of my help, but I didn’t want to discourage her enthusiasm.
As soon as she began reading my two year old slowed down, moving closer and settling in to listen to the story, my 8 month old discovered the bar of his crib was a wonderful teether and became enthralled with his sister’s voice and even my 10 year old decided to stop in and listen on the way to his room. Slowly my hands stopped folding the laundry, the pressing tasks of life drifted away and I too snuggled in close to hear the tale and share in the laughter.
She captivated the attention of the each one of us as she shared the story of a Little Old Lady and her very nonsensical choices. Although there were moments of pause when unfamiliar words challenged her first grade reading skills she relied on her background knowledge, vocabulary and the context of the story to pull her through, never once looking to me. Her experience with other Lucille Colandro stories also lent some support.
I am constantly in awe of the beautiful and sometimes unnoticed transition readers make into authentic text. That move from reading texts written to teach to reading authentic text written to share stories is a magical one. Suddenly readers jump into this world of books that can sweep them off their feet and make them fall deeply in love with reading. My daughter has quietly, joyfully and without hesitation entered this world and I am so blessed to be falling in love with these beautiful picture books all over again through her.
Many people assume that because I am a reading specialist that my children were reading at a very young age and well into complex stories and chapter books by the time they entered kindergarten. In reality, my oldest was not even solid with every letter sound when he entered kindergarten at age 5 and my daughter, who started later at age 6 was only reading repeated sentence texts. Developmentally, though, they were right where they needed to be and that was what was important to me. I knew the journey would be smoother and much more successful if they came to it when they were ready. We had spent the first and most formative years of their young lives building a culture of reading in our home and allowing them to show us when they were ready to transition from one stage to the next. Our most important responsibility was to nurture their love of reading on our laps, converse with them continuously, answering every why question that came our way and to provide them with many varied experiences in the world, whether in person or in books. These things, I knew, would later make all the difference.
We had laid what we hoped was a strong foundation and when they were ready and desired to become readers they took off. They have grown so effortlessly as readers because they have been readers since they were born in whatever capacity they could be and we are now blessed to be standing in the wings watching them soar. I don’t know what the journey yet holds for my two youngest and recognize that even the best laid foundation may not be enough. They may not come to reading as effortlessly and if that is the case we will help them find their path.
In a family with 4 children there is a lot of noise, never ending chores, activities to race off to, and never, ever enough time one-on-one. But reading brings us together, whether it’s a joke book filling the car with laughter, a chapter book we’re anxiously finishing before the movie comes out, a well loved board book a big sister uses to calm the tears of a little one or that golden hour of bedtime snuggles, where the stories we share lead to the tales of their lives. Nights, like that one in the fall, warm my heart as I think about the endless blessings that reading has brought to our lives and the memories of the shared stories they will carry with them forever.
Kim Hole is a K-6 Reading Specialist with 14 years in education who is lucky enough to spend every day helping students unlock their individual barriers to reading growth and find the love of a good book. She also loves working with teachers to help them build strong cultures of reading within their classrooms, schools and beyond. In her other life she and her husband are enjoying the adventures of raising four readers of their own and she nurtures her other passion, photography, striving to capture the noisy, messy, beautiful moments of their lives. She’s excited to have just started sharing her stories both from within the classroom and at home on her blog at https://readlearnlive.wordpress.com/ and you can follow her on Twitter @Khole81.