I’ve made it no secret that Spawn’s dyslexia is a constant source of frustration, for me and for Spawn. When Spawn was an infant, when I would read those interminable board (bored?) books at bedtime, I held a fantasy in my head about the day when we would share a love for books and great conversation about what we were reading. “Goodnight Moon” was in no way satisfying to the soul and I could hardly wait to introduce the kid to the books I had loved as a child, some of which I have kept all these years in the anticipation of having a child someday. I suppose in many ways I was anxious to live my childhood over again, only this time to “get it right.”
By the time Spawn was a preschooler, we (I) had graduated to reading more stimulating fare — Dr. Seuss. The good Dr. was my first reading teacher, the books that I decoded on my own at age four, and the books that my parents had saved for many years. I worked hard at giving Seuss’ words some life, because the best reader is one that can read with inflection, and boy, did those tweedle beetles ever battle. Perhaps I did too good a job, because Spawn never showed any interest in picking up those books to try and decode the things I was reading at bedtime. Far better, I suppose, to listen to the saga of Green Eggs and Ham as related by someone who can really punch it up. (Little did I realize that my high school speech team coach would have such far-reaching effect on my reading aloud, all this time later.)
Conventional wisdom indicates that children learn to read up until third grade, constantly refining their skills as the years pass; from fourth grade on, there is more emphasis on reading to learn. And even though I knew from first grade on that Spawn was struggling with a reading disability, I was anxious for the kid to make some progress in this area, knowing that starting in fourth grade, things were going to get intense. Thank goodness that even in this podunk town, we were able to find a tutor who specialized in Orton-Gillingham based reading tutoring, and while it’s expensive as all get-out, it’s been worth every penny. Spawn can read. Maybe not as fluently as I could at that age, but the kid can decode and piece together a string of ideas, and is making progress, however slowly but steadily, toward better fluency.
Of course this means that I’ve had to repeatedly adjust my expectations. For Planny McPlannerson, that’s a tall order. But I’ve done it because I recognize (most of the time) the things that I can change and the things that I can’t. Where the frustration comes in is the realization that Spawn isn’t me, that living my childhood over again, reading-wise, isn’t happening. I want it, and Spawn wants it because I want it. And I’m trying really hard not to want it as badly as I do, but fantasies are sometimes difficult to let go of.
The fact that they went and made Charlotte’s Web into a movie is not helping, though I was one of the first ones to go see it because that was the book that started me off on a lifelong love of literature (the august Dr. Seuss notwithstanding). Spawn’s theory is, why read the book if there’s going to be a movie eventually?
All those books I’ve saved over the years, the EB Whites and the Marguerite Henrys and all the Boxcar Children, seem destined to continue to collect dust. But I’m trying my damnedest to light that spark in Spawn. The kid can do it. I’ve bought lots and lots of books in the search for the book that will start Spawn reading, some that I would have never have read myself (ok, most of them — I never was a Goosebumps fan). Many of them have never been opened. Some of them have been read to Spawn numerous times — a particular favorite of Spawn and my husband is Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger. I’m not making that up. I’m also not reading it.
At the school’s used book sale this year, I managed to snag a Great Illustrated Classics edition of White Fang, which proved to be – at least at the outset – The Book. Spawn read the book without any assistance, without any encouragement, without giving up, in about four days. I was so encouraged that I tracked down a Great Illustrated Classics copy of Call of the Wild, and Spawn is now reading that, albeit more slowly. I should point out that I have not read either book, though I know the stories. The Great Illustrated Classics are pared-down versions of the original books, and less intimidating to readers like Spawn. My feeling is, let’s be less of a purist about the great books of childhood and simply get the kid turned on to reading.
Hey, whatever works.
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