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2011 April 22
by Pamela

Yesterday after Bob’s birthday dinner, he was reading the girls their bedtime stories.  Mary Claire, who is normally enthralled with stories, couldn’t sit still.  She was meandering around the living room, clearly distracted.  I could see that something was up.

She eventually came into the kitchen where I was sitting and proved my suspicion correct.

“Do you think I’m a good reader Mama?  _________ (one of her friends) said that I’m not any good at reading”. 

She was absolutely devastated by her friend’s words.  And the fact is, she is a good reader.  But her friend is in 1st grade so of course she doesn’t measure up in that girl’s mind. 

One thing my parents did very well was build my confidence in reading.  I distinctly remember having to come in BEFORE the street lights came on while all the other kids were still outside playing.  My parents would make me read aloud from the Peanuts Gang Picture Dictionary every single night.  I HATED it.  I was surely missing the most amazing fun ever outside, someone had found buried treasure and was going to use it to buy the whole neighborhood ice cream while I was stuck in the house struggling over every word.

But the work they did on those nights made me a good reader.  And I felt like I was a good reader, which made me want to read more.  Soon enough I was ecstatic when my teacher would pass out those Scholastic catalogs that had books we could buy.  I would take home the catalog, read every book’s description carefully, and agonize over my decisions on what to purchase. 

Later I remember having a blue and white table lamp next to my bed.  The bottom of it could stay lit as a night light.  My parents would tell me it was time for bed and I would shut out my light and then use the night light to lay in bed reading.  To this day, reading and writing are my two favorite pursuits.

Reading (writing seems to be a natural progression, in my opinion) has served me well over the years.  For that reason I have been adament that if our girls can do anything, they will be able to read and write well.  If you can do those two things, you have access to the whole world. 

So that 1st grader’s words stung me almost as bad as Mary Claire.

I assured her the best I could with all I could:  Mrs. Holt (her Math and Literature teacher at co-op) said you knew 43 sight words when she tested you last week.  You have already finished one chapter book and are several chapters into your second which Miss Rhonda (her phonics tutor) said is great for your age. 

“Who are you going to believe Mary Claire?  Your Mama, Miss Rhonda, and Mrs. Holt or your friend?”

“I’ll believe you”. 

But I could see the struggle still in her eyes.  Words hurt.  We all know that a negative comment will stay with us far longer than praise.  But it was one of the first times that I saw my daughter affected in that way.

She asked me if she could take a flashlight into her room with a Dr. Seuss book called “Put me in the Zoo” (which she perceives as a “big kid” book as oppposed to her chapter books, which are “baby books”).  She wanted to practice reading it so she could prove to her friend that she is a good reader. 

I found it in her bed with the flashlight still on this morning.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Paige Lloyd permalink
    April 22, 2011

    Awww…Love this story, and thanks for sharing Pamela! I feel the same way about reading and writing…we believe the very beginning to a good education is to enjoy reading, and as you said writing becomes a natural extension of that. Once you can read well, and enjoy it, you will educate yourself about almost everything you really need to know! : ) Good job on encouraging that in your girls!

  2. J.P. Baugh permalink
    April 22, 2011

    Many kids get hurt very easily by words. I was one of those (still am to an extent!) But although it seems very negative right now, she’s focusing her energy correctly: She didn’t give up and throw her hands in the air saying, “I can’t do this. I’m going to go play with my dolls.” She is pushing herself, and that’s very positive.

  3. Ellen permalink
    April 22, 2011

    Boy o boy, girls do start early with that stuff. There’s nothing nothing nothing more hurtful than having your kids hurt! But you know, there’s always a lesson to be learned – life is tough and if you learn to roll with the punches, it’s a lot easier. So you both did well! The hardest part is not holding a grudge against the friend – the kids forget easily but moms……????

  4. Lee Harrison permalink
    April 22, 2011

    I really enjoy reading your parenting narratives.

  5. Christina Rykens permalink
    April 26, 2011

    Well done Pamela!

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