Grade Expectations is a weekly look at education from a parent’s perspective. We’ll talk special needs, gifted & talented, and everything in between.
I’m sure this comes as a shock, given that I write for a living, but I consider reading to be rather important. I started reading aloud to my daughter when she was still in my womb. There were plenty of nights where instead of singing lullabies, I pulled out Peter Pan and read her to sleep. Now, we still try to read a chapter from a larger book, along with storybooks, before bedtime.
I always thought that I was just doing what any dedicated parent does. You read to your kids. No matter the time, no matter the place, no matter what else is going on in your life, you read to your kids.
However, now that my little girl is really working on letters and writing and reading all on her own, my dedication to our reading routine has gotten a little extreme. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m not crossing the line into downright obsession. Maybe I’m pushing my daughter just a little too far.
Ever since my little girl started pre-k, I decided to amp up our letter work and integrate it into our nightly reading routine. Each night, she picks a letter. We work on writing the letter. We make the sounds of the letter. We find things in her room that use the sound of the letter. Then we normally write the words of the things we found and look at the sounds that make up the whole word. During storytime, we pick a book where the letter features prominently. Then, as we read the book, my daughter picks out the letter and counts how many times she sees it.
After all of this, my daughter has the opportunity to read by herself in her “cocoon chair” that I got specifically as her reading chair, or she can choose a couple other books for me to read. All in all, the nightly routine can take up to an hour. That doesn’t seem like a lot of time until your realize that between dinner and bath time, there are very few hours to spare in a normal weekday evening.
We do have an incentive for our letter work. My daughter could always choose not to work on a letter for the evening. But getting through the alphabet leads to a treat. This time, we’re working towards a trip to the Roller Dome. (I have no idea who convinced her the Roller Dome was so awesome. I’m afraid she’ll be disappointed.) After getting through the alphabet a couple times, I figure the lessons will move on. We’ll start talking about sight words. We’ll focus more on the sounds, less on recognizing and naming the letters themselves.
There are times when I feel like I’m pushing too hard. I worry that my daughter spends her day working, and her time at home needs to be more relaxed. But I also can’t help myself from pointing out letters in every sign, reminding her of the letters in her name, giving random quizzes and then letting her quiz me.
I try to make the activities fun. Everything is always optional. I always figure that my daughter has a strong enough personality, she’ll let me know if she really isn’t interested in talking about “W” while we read about Wonder Woman. Then I remember that she’s just 4 years old. She has plenty of time to learn all of this information. She doesn’t have to know it all now.
I want to do what’s best for my daughter. I want to make her the most prepared. I want her to know how much I value her education. At the same time, I’m really worried that I’m too focused on what I want, and not focused enough on what exactly my little girl needs at this point. It’s a really hard line to walk as a parent. How do we show our children that we’re invested in their education, that we want them to succeed, without drowning them in pressure and reading drills? I’m not sure if I’ve found the balance quite yet. But I hope I figure it out soon. Next year, the kindergarten testing starts.