. . .than sitting with my son and helping him through his reading homework.
Yip, and for a mother who borderline brags about sharing her love of books with her willing son this is a pretty shocking confession.
Before Toby started school, the thing I most looked forward to was witnessing him develop as a reader and I fully envisaged being a crucial part of that journey.
When he returned home after his first two weeks with his very first reading book I very nearly burst with pride when he read the whole thing unassisted. It’s definitely in my top ten favourite moments as a mother.
With enthusiasm we’d tackle his common reading words and snuggle up on the sofa and work through the reading books with aplomb.
However, each week the books got harder. Each week life got in the way, routines became more and more repetitive and the reading slipped further and further back into the depths of Sunday night.
Basically we got tired. And reading homework has become just something else I nag about.
Toby can be so reluctant, dragging out every word and sentence, I’ve questioned whether he is capable or struggling.
Not so say his teachers who insist he remains in the top group and that he is a strong reader (despite his lack of motivation at times). Or my mother, who seems to draw out a flawless performance from him any time she does the reading with him.
So what’s going wrong with Toby and me?
I lack patience – a serious flaw, and credit to teachers, learning support assistants and other parents who calmly sit quietly and calmly allowing the child to find their way through their words at their own pace.
I try my best but I can never resist intervening and this frustrates Toby, who feels aggrieved that a) I’ve interfered and b) he wasn’t able to do the word himself.
He seems to interpret my help as a criticism, and it truly isn’t intended that way, so he gets angry and stops, and then I end up spending the next five minutes coaxing him back into it. I then begin to get cross because he isn’t trying and he then thinks I’m angry with him because he can’t do it and so it goes on.
Often I can’t win – if I use my finger to point out the words and help him keep his place I get accused of “blocking the words” but if I don’t do it he gets annoyed with me if he skips a line or loses his place. Yes, it really does become that petty and silly.
His teacher has started giving him proper books to read at home now and he’s been getting Roald Dahl novels, which really did rejuvenate his enthusiasm for reading at first, and it has been a really positive experience.
But judging by tonight’s efforts we have fallen back to square one and had a real tussle, which I suspect had more to do with the fact I’d said he couldn’t play the Xbox than it had to do with finding his reading hard.
So I’ve collected some common-sense tips that I should really start to use to help ease the pain because let’s face it, practising reading at home is a fairly essential part of Toby’s literacy development:
- Don’t do it too late in the evening – obvious really but easier said than done. A lot of our problems stem from the fact that Toby is just very tired.
- Don’t do it all at once – a page at a time can be more manageable for them (too often we leave it till the last-minute though)
- If you can get someone else involved in his reading do – a bit like driving a car, sometimes your primary carer isn’t always the best person to teach you
- Bribe with rewards
- Factor it in to your daily routine
- Talk to your child’s teacher, they may be able to find books with subject matter that connects a bit better
- Try not to criticise – obvious again but I think when I’m frustrated it comes out in my tone, and Toby picks up on that
- Try not to step in – it depends on the child but Toby really really doesn’t like it if I help him though it can be hard when it’s an unfamiliar word, or awkwardly spelt word.
I’m pretty disappointed about how inattentive I am to Toby’s formal reading homework but I think it’s always worth remembering that there are ways of building these skills during day-to-day life. I always encourage Toby to write his own birthday cards to friends, for example. I also ask him to read things while we’re in supermarkets, stations or driving around town.
Plus, the bedtime story remains a key component of our routine. I believe if children can understand the enjoyment reading can give it will help them work through those times when reading can be a bit monotonous.