Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

My Daughter is Reading!

My daughter is reading.  It happened overnight, or it least is seemed that way.

Hope just turned six, so it’s age appropriate, but I’m still overcome with emotion and pride every time she picks up a book (which is almost hourly at the moment) and says “Let ME read it to YOU!”

KidsReadingAnd I continue to be awed by the beauty of the process. Often she sounds out the letters and words – but mostly she breezes right across the page, including words that I can’t believe she is reading, like “actually” or “ice-skating” or “peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”  In these cases, it’s all about association – from the other surrounding words in the sentence, from the pictures (if there are any), or from her innate sense of the direction the story is taking. Occasionally, she will look to me to help her decode a word, and I quickly comply.  I might invite her to sound it out, if I think it’s a word she knows or can easily decipher – but more often than not I’ll just give it to her, since my goal is for the process to continue to unfold as joyfully as possible.  I know that the moment it shifts from being fun to being pressured will be the moment she turns away from it.

Yesterday, Hope received a thank you note in the mail from one of her classmates, and she tore it open and read it to me with palpable excitement.  It reminded me that I must take care to make my lunchbox notes to her as legible as possible now, since I imagine she is reading them herself instead of asking the teacher to do so (no easy task, since my handwriting skills have deteriorated at the same rate as my computer skills have improved over the years.)

These are among the golden moments of parenthood, the moments in which I can either help my daughter build the foundation for a life-long love of reading, or squelch it.   My most challenging job in the days ahead will balancing my own enthusiasm and support of her independent reading skills with a continued commitment to reading aloud to her.  I know that no matter how well she may be reading herself, her listening and reading skills won’t converge until around 8th grade, and that there is tremendous value in reading to children well beyond the years when they learn to read for themselves.

By continuing to read to her, I invite her to stretch gently up to material she isn’t yet reading for herself.  I help her continue to grow her vocabulary, provide diversity in her reading experiences and encourage her to discover which books, authors, subjects and styles she likes best.  I can model reading techniques, and convey nuance, character, style and tone – elements of reading that often get lost when the main focus is on decoding.  But most importantly, every time we snuggle up and  read together, whether she is reading to me or I am reading to her, I am helping to strengthen her continued associate between reading and pleasure.  Not to mention my own!

I’d love to hear about your experiences with your children learning to read!  Tell me your story in the comments below!

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11 Responses to “My Daughter is Reading!”
  1. Danielle McKenzie says:

    I am not a mom yet, but I really appreciate the way you and your mom try so hard to push childrens’ literacy. I believe that a lot of the reason why I have learned so much growing up is from the stories I read and the adventures they took me through… and the lessons I learned. My vocabulary expanded so quickly when I was young and I remember reading, spelling, and speaking much better than my fellow classmates for a long time, but I was always reading something. Sometimes I read little elementary school books just for pure enjoyment, and other times I read the higher level books that really challenged my knowledge. Reading is so wonderful, and the books that you publish are great.

    Thanks so much for sharing with everyone! And your newest book with the poems is beautiful! 🙂

  2. What thrilling news that Hope is reading! And that it happened “overnight” — how wonderful is that?

    The process of learning to read absolutely fascinates me. I so wish I could remember my own learning-to-read experiences (I suppose that’s too far in the past!) I’d love to be able to understand just how it happens that those strange marks on the paper begin to become words, begin to make sense, begin the magic that is reading.

    I hope she will continue to enjoy being read to as well. I was very much a “do it mineself!” kind of kid, and although I’m sure my parents read to me, I remember very little about that experience — I hope I didn’t thwart it with my insistence on independence. I have a friend who continue to read aloud with her twelve year old son every night — they alternate nights, she reads one night, he reads the next.

    Now, I read to my mother over the phone (she’s in a nursing home). I read or recite poetry (she taught me long ago to love the music in words, and especially in poetry), and so we’ve come full circle. It has drawn us even closer together, I think, for me to be reading to her.

    And finally, back to your daughter — three cheers for Hope and READING!

  3. Olugbemisola says:

    Oh, I know that joy! It’s a wonderful thing when I catch a glimpse of my daughter choosing a book from her shelves and really reading to herself. The pleasure and sense of discovery that she has these days is wonderful, and those words “Let me read to you” are beyond sweet to hear. My mom read aloud to us far into our independent reading years; I treasure those memories, and plan to do the same. And like the previous commenter, it was a special thing for me to read aloud to her later on, when she was ill. More cheers for Hope, and for your work as an advocate, author, and mother.

  4. Amy Isgro says:

    I think it is terrific that Hope is reading. As a member of SCBWI,and a would be author, I have writtne 2 children’s fantasies. When Hope gets a little older, maybe 2 years, she would love to know where elves live at the North Pole! All my book needs at the moment if an “endorsement” from a celebrity to get the attention of a popular agent. The book is not long,only 72 pages, easy to read. You could read it to your daughter or neice or any little girl or boy! I always loved reading, have most of yours and your mothers’ books. I adored “Mandy”- still have it, and actually cried every time I read it! I hope you give me a chance as a new author to make herself known. Besides , aren’t you curious to know where the elves live? Also, how will my heroine get to the North Pole? That is the fantasy ,and magical part. I will always be a true fan. Many thanks. Sincerely,Amy Isgro

  5. Amy Isgro says:

    Dear Emma,
    I still remember my first reading experience! As a first grader, I was the best reader in the class, and in those days -way back when!!! 50 years, lol.= it was a priveledge to be allowed to sit in the hallway and read a book! I was always there. On top of that, my mom always got me all the “little golden books” which I looked at,before I could read tham. My mother made reading truly a pleasure, as did my grandmother, who always gave me a book on the weekends she came over to our house.I had most of the Bobbsy Twins, and Nancy Drew, as well as many children’s books aobut historic people , like Louis Pasteur, Madame Curie, Elizabeth the First, and Louisa May Alcott . My mother helped me with my vocabulary by teaching me “Scrabble”- which we played quite a lot. It took me many years to actually beat her! I am still an avid reader. I read anything I can get my hands on these days. Thank you for being part of my reading experience! Naturally I love your mother- who wouldnt? I stil have the book “Mandy”, and I can still cry over it. It is as good as ‘The Secret Garden” where I am concerned. Sincerely,Amy

  6. Rupa says:

    Hi Emma,
    How wonderful and proud you must feel as your daughter reads to you! Congratulations to both of you and here’s wishing you countless, beautiful, shared moments of reading and discovery as mom and daughter.

    I just started reading Raising Bookworms and it’s an incredible read. I rushed to your website after the first few pages as I had to find a way to reach you. You see, the youth services librarian at our local library recommended your book after I told her I had recently started a blog about reading to babies and kids. Your book is a great resource and I am so glad I have a chance to read it even as I’m still establishing my blog. It’s really great to read about your reading experiences with your daughter. I look forward to more of these.

    For me, reading with my daughter is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable experiences we share. We started when she was a few days old and she is 3 now. I can’t tell you how many magical moments and memories there are from reading together. The expressions on her face, the way her eyes would light up at familiar words or names of characters, the day she started pointing to objects or labeling them, her many questions that I have to answer satisfactorily before we can finish a book and more recently, the comparisons she draws and connections she makes with other books or real life situations…it’s all so fulfilling and exciting. These days we’ve started playing this game where I sound out a word a couple of times and ask her to guess what letter it starts with. It’s a lot of fun and to her credit, she tries really hard and comes up with the right answer most of the time. ( The C’s and K’s are tricky though!)

  7. Rupa says:


    I’m enjoying Raising Bookworms immensely. Thanks for the great advice. As a mom and read aloud enthusiast, I find many of your tips easy to implement and incorporate into a daily routine, no matter how busy one’s schedule.

    I was wondering, is there any chance I could interview you for my blog? The similarities between some of my posts and the initial chapters in your book are uncanny(in a wonderful way, of course!)
    I would love to be able to discuss with you some of the tips you offer and also expand on a few other aspects of reading to babies and kids.

    I do appreciate your time and thanks again for reinforcing this very important aspect of parenting through your book.

  8. Lessie says:

    My post recounts the adventures of my son learning to read. While not much different from Moms and their Princesses, I wonder if others have accounts of slight nuances similar to my own with their sons. I have nothing to compare them to as I only have a son.

    My husband and I always read to our son, even when I was carrying him. I sang to him as well which might account for why he would always want to cuddle when he was a little guy, when I sang Mama’s Little Baby Loves Shortnin Bread.

    Once when David was about 4, I was reading to him from his Toddler Picture Bible about Joseph. You know the story where Joseph’s brothers sort of ditched him, well, by throwing him in a ditch? Well, after reading this very short story to David that Joseph was crying because his brothers weren’t very nice to him, I paused to query my youngster as to why Joseph was crying. David’s response was because Joseph wanted to play basketball and to drink juice. Of course, I realized that David was imputing his own desires on Joseph. Wanting to play basketball and drink juice and not being able to do either, would make any little boy more unhappy than being thrown in a ditch!

    A fun activity that we used to engage in with our son as a way to build his vocabulary was discovering words by combining prefixes and roots with different letters of the alphabet. Once when my husband and son were on their way somewhere in the car, they decided to play this game. My husband started off with the root of “uck” and my son dutifully started with the letter “A” understanding fully that this would not spell a word. Next, on to the letter “B” this spelled Buck. “Buck Daddy, it’s Buck.” So proud of himself David was for making the word buck. Well this happened quite smoothly until my husband realized the letter “F” was fast approaching and he didn’t want our little guy screaming the “F” word. Well, Young David was on a roll and my husband was telling David not to say it, as neither of us use profanity, and didn’t want our son to either. Well, F came and so did the F word! As you can imagine, I was none too pleased; but David’s adventures have made for quite interesting Holiday letters over the years.

    At five years old, when David entered Kindergarten, one of his most favorite times was story time. His Kindergarten teacher, who I am quite good friends with, recounted a story to me about David and how he began reading. There was one little girl in his class who came to the grade already knowing how to read. David was not to be outdone by a girl (not quite sure where this machismo stems from at such a tender age, socialization I suppose)! Anyway there was a toy that he had; a leap pad or something like that which helps kids learn to read. Before meeting this little girl, he had absolutely no interest in this toy. After meeting this little girl, within a few weeks time, David was reading.

    One of David’s favorite books as a youngster was Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? I’d read it to him countless times to the point that he memorized the book. Well he sat his father and I down once, and “read” the story to us. When he got to the part about the Zebra and what it heard, in his excitement he remarked “Zebra, Zebra what do you hear? I hear a Boa Constrictor pissing in my ear.” It should have been hissing.

    At 13 and in the 8th grade, David still likes to read. He’s a big fan of Harry Potter and likes to read the books and see the movie to critically compare and analyze the two. We’ve done this with other books such as Holes, etc. He is quite well read.

    Now, if only we could spark such an enthusiasm for Algebra and Chemistry, we’d be just fine!

  9. admin says:

    Thank you all for your comments! Though I don’t have time to respond to every one personally, I love to hear your feedback and your stories… please keep them coming!

  10. Kim says:


    Our son had enormous difficulties with learning how to read.

    By the time he was in Second Grade, he was not yet reading. He struggled and struggled and by the end of Ryan’s second year, I knew he was in trouble. I realized that if he couldn’t READ, he wouldn’t be able to grasp other subject materials as well.

    So, I purchased a reading program designed to instruct using phonetics; Ryan LOVED IT. We would sit for hours on end, cuddled up on the couch and just read, read, read. Fairly quickly, Ryan was reading.

    Soon, he was reading everything on his own, but what really sparked his enthusiasm for reading was ANYTHING to do with sorcery, wizards, magic, etc. Of course, Harry Potter fits nicely into that category; Ryan would beg me to read him the latest Harry Potter story, so that’s what I did. From there, Ryan’s reading skills just seemed to take off.

    Ryan is now a sophmore in high school and is doing wonderfully. His reading comprehension skills are now excellent (and above age/grade level).

    I am so glad I took the time to sit with Ryan day after day, month after month, to help him acquire the love and joy in learning how to read! It has paid back in so many dividends!

    I have always been a bookworm myself; I can remember curling myself up in my favorite cubby to read Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, one of my absolute favorites. Whenever I had any downtime, it was most usually spent curled up in a corner somewhere with a great book in my lap. Total bliss!

    My child’s inability to read ended up giving us a precious gift – quality time we may never have spent together, curled up on the couch together for days on end. Most of all, the skill of reading and reading WELL has helped Ryan overcome his other learning issues (I am so proud to say he makes A’s and B’s in school, when once he was considered learning disabled).

    Reading is SO fundamental and is a tool/impetus to learning every other subject.

    Congrats to you and your Mother for inspiring so many others in the joy of READING!

  11. grace says:

    I randomly picked up your book How to raise bookworms from the library and it is a blessing.

    I am from Kenya and growing up I never had books but I loved to read. I remember reading old newspaper pages that were used to wrap meat from a butchers shop. I also used to read newspaper pieces that were cut and put in the toilet for use as tissue. In high school I would sneak into my sisters bedroom and steal a book, it was on African folk stories, and read it again and again. It was the only book. In college I stopped going to the library to do my school work since I would end up reading other, other, books on ecology,astronomy, or a novel and end up never doing the boring school work.

    When I was teaching after my college days, I would spend hours in a hot staff room, in a local school in the middle of nowhere and read very old novels I picked up from a thin library we had. I stumbled on some gems that I have cherished. I can go on and on. But fast forward I came to the US and the first time I went to the library and I was told I can borrow as many books as I want I almost cried. You, mean in this country books are in plenty and free-forget about the food and the big cars.

    I have never stopped reading. I have three kids but every sunday I leave them with my husband and take off to read. My house is full of nothing but books, I never pass books in a dump stand never, even if there is no parking or it is raining.

    It is funny my six year old is a reader and we did not push her. But the most amazing thing is that my one year old is driving us crazy making us read for her books again and again the whole day. It is the first thing we do in the morning. She even picks books that I read, since they are all over and sits down and speaks somethings like she is reading. My husband blames it on me. The good thing is that, at one she does not tear off pages from a book, she thinks they are very important objects. My four year old just loves to cuddle,with a red blanket, and be read for a book.

    Books are like my life line. Every time I am stressed I grab a book and disappear in it I call it my crack. Since we cannot afford a vacation, I read books on the places I dream of going and feel like I am there.

    Thank you for your book, it is a treasure.

    One thing though, to all the parents in Africa who do not have such exposure to books like America and Europe or other places. They can spend time telling stories to their kids. I was never read for when growing up but my dad told me so many stories and I loved them so much. I think that is the one thing that drew me to reading.

    I am now writing a novel and will be done soon and all that can be traced to books, books, books. It is a shame that someone can be here in the US and not read. It is a shame.

    All the best,

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