The Happy Reading Reality

“Happy Reading!” says Debbie Miller reading guru among teacher circles. So the teachers say the same “Happy Reading!” at the conclusion of their mini lesson. I like it. It sounds so cheerful and positive. It is a good luck wish for a meaningful experience in reading

I have a masters degree in reading and with that I’ve had certain check list of ambitions. Yet one perhaps overlooked, is teaching my own kids- yes the ones I bore- the ones that supposedly have the same genetic love for reading genes as me ( and their father), to read and to read happily! Sure their teachers are and will do wonders for them. I do not doubt they will learn to read. Yet, with my daughter in particular, I do wonder what her picture of “Happy reading!” will be.

When my daughter was around the age of 2 or three, I remember waking up to hear the sound of her piling books on her bed and beginning to read them. At this stage she was mostly turning pages and looking at pictures. She was also speaking in tongues with inflection. She knew exactly what to say and acted like a reader from such a young age. The actual weight of books was almost a pleasure or comfort to her. If I tried to remove one for fear of a big BONK in the middle of the night, it was sure to be noticed. The written word needed to be near her at all times.

Now, she has some great reading behaviors in place. She observes the pictures and uses fairly matched story language for each illustration. She has great expression and good fluency. She finger sweeps and knows the right to left directionality.  She holds up any consonant and says in her teacher voice “Now this letter makes the  —- sound.” She remembers a story after hearing or – yes, okay seeing it on DVD. It then becomes a part of her schema, (another Debbie Miller word) for future readings and connections.

Yet, there are other querks to her reading. She enjoys the textures of  pages.  She loves the smooth, glossy kind or the easily turned kind. She loves the weight of the hard cover book and the way it presses on her lap. She loves to stack books up like a tower. Neatly stacked large ones at the bottom and small ones at the top. This weekly stack of books from our weekly library trip follow her everywhere beginning with the breakfast table. I feel often like the caddy of books.

Her stamina for reading is flexible. Peers have read to her and the attention is captured. Listening to a story on tape without the illustrations is better than listening to the story with the book at hand. At this time, she is not interested in the print. She is interested in the lovely sound effects and voices of a story told. Bedtime stories are read by her. A few page turns matched with the best sentences she can muster and she is done. “Read to me” are rare words. “I’ll read it” is more of the norm.

Enter now the nearness of the kindergarten classroom. The teacher will begin teaching more of the system of reading. Beginning sounds, words in sentences, letters in words, finger hopping, phonemic awareness, and high frequency words. There will be read alouds and shared readings. There will be paired reading and solo reading. There will be expectation and evaluation. Happy Reading?

Stories are so much a part of her. Now comes the time to keep the momentum going. Reading is the key to getting  more story. Reading her way is on its way to reading the way. The way that enables her to get the printed message so that she can pretend, tell, share, write,  message, ( and I am not talking about texting on her cell phone here- I am talking about oral language) … fill up her schema! Happy Reading!

Now she is happily reading. With good modeling and instruction she will be on her way to “happy forever after reading.” The challenge is the excitement in learning the system while keeping the love for the story. Happiness will take work now. Frequent reminders of the “happy” will be needed.  So we will act out stories, visit the library, prize new and good stories, and yes reinforce the system. All to keep her happy reading now and forever after.

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