Thursday, January 20, 2011

Learning to Read: When Did It First Click for You?

Everyone remembers his or her first time, right? That magical moment when the squiggles on the page crystalize into words, and a new world, a world of reading, unfolds.

Mine occurred in the second half of first grade. In those long ago days, children weren't pressured into reading while still in diapers. We listened to picture books in kindergarten, but we didn't have readers of our own. There wasn't time. Kindergarten lasted half a day. Was this good or bad? I don't know. But my daughter, who went to preschool and full-day kindergarden where reading was very definitely taught, learned to read at exactly the same age as I did: six-and-a-half.

Still, even in those more forgiving days, I was among the last in my class to learn to read. What was wrong? Our house was full of enticing books; my mother, a bookworm, read aloud to me and my sisters every night; the children's room at the library was as familiar to me as the back of my hand. Whatever the reason, the squiggles on the page stayed squiggles.

Then, on an otherwise ordinary day, the amazing happened. I was looking at the page and reading aloud--as I often did; I was able to memorize the words from listening to my mother and parrot them back to her--when something shifted and the squiggles changed into words that held meaning. (How I wish I could remember the book, but I can't.) "You're reading!" my mother exclaimed. I was? At first, it didn't seem possible, but as I continued to stumble over the words, my confidence grew. And after that day, I joined the ranks of my classmates. I was a reader.

What about you? Do you remember your first time?


  1. While I don't remember my own first time when reading clicked, I remember the moment of my children's firsts and think I always will. Both of my boys (ages 8 and 7) are excellent readers now and my daughter (4) is on her way. Lovely post:)

  2. I wish I could say I remember my first time. I only remember I loved books and words and doing my ABC sheets in kindergarten. I also went to school when there was no rush to read. My son became a fluent reader toward the second half of first grade, though his comprehension was excellent even in kindergarten. Because he'd been immersed in books and readalouds since birth and even in the womb, once reading "clicked" he was assessed at third grade level, and by fifth grade at eleventh grade level. I wish schools would stop pushing children, and would agree, a child will read when they are developmentally ready, and that the pace is different for every child. So long as the foundations are in place and a love for books and reading is instilled, children will read when they are ready. Thank you for sharing. This was a great post!

  3. I can't really remember learning to read. It just came. I have this memory of reading the stupid jokes on these little paper cups for kids and "getting" the jokes for the first time. My mom says this was in about Kindergarten, so that was probably it. Haven't stopped since!