My youngest brother swears that he did not discover the joys of reading until college—all because I supposedly marched him legalistically through a series of boring early readers when he turned five (and I was the ripe old age of 12). The experience must have scarred us both, because once the magic of putting sounds together to make words passes and my children are left painstakingly plodding through See Dick Run, I run for the hills.
You can imagine my delight when my serious ten-year-old decided to take on nightly reading with my kindergartner. It thrilled my heart to see him sweetly helping his sister. I even snapped a quick iPhone pic to upload to my facebook page later: “Look how my kids love each other! And they’re smart, too!!!”
This went well for a night or two, but last night I felt a gentle tug at my sweater as I was doing the after-dinner dishes. I looked down to see a sad little face looking back at me. “Mama,” she said as she held up the reading selection of the night, “Can I read you this book?” And then her sadness gave way to indignation. “He says I’m doing it wrong. He says I should say, ‘DOOKE—not Du-ke.’” Aha. The legalistic, self-righteous gene must have been passed down right along with the “love to read/teach others” gene.
I scooped her up and we sat in our favorite chair. I prompted her when she needed it, and by the final page we were both exhausted but accomplished. She achieved a reasonable version of “Duke” the dog (I never learned what the exact discrepancy was). I got extra lap time. The dishes got to soak. My son, I suppose, took the walk of shame straight to the Wii.
Funny how easily we spoil the good with the bad. My son and I both wanted to share our love of reading with a sibling, but our superiority complex got in the way. Giving with a lack of grace is not really giving at all. Remembering those nightly fights with my brother, I hope that even though “duh-aw-guh—DOG!” can wear thin, my daughter will remember and build on these nights for a lifetime. My patience—and ability to know both when to push and when to relent—will reap a strong reward.
For now I am just thankful to have my last little reader back in my lap, unselfconsciously sounding out words.