Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pride and Joy

My husband and I are both avid readers. He read to both of our kids before they were born (Dr. Seuss Classic Collection) and my oldest "read" 30 books a day on our long morning/evening commute, so she's been naturally obsessed with books all her life. But my youngest has suffered from second child syndrome in this most shamed of ways. We haven't read to her as much as the first kid, a fact I've always hated. So she hasn't shown the same interest (passion!) in books as the rest of us.

So I was thrilled at the end of this summer when she just flipped the switch. I never pushed either of them to read to their potential before kindergarten. They did daycare/preschool and were going to be bored enough as it was. So though M was at the advanced end of the range last year, she wasn't off the charts.

Except she was. The school did a reading assessment in August, before classes started, and her teacher told me she was well above the placement her kindergarten teacher had noted, and it was likely she'd be the only student in her reading group. I don't know if that kicked on her competitiveness, or if her skill reached critical mass so she understands enough to take pleasure in what she's reading, or if she just read one particular thing that grabbed her interest. For whatever reason, she became a reading machine. She blows through a whole Junie B. Jones book at breakfast, and her teacher has to pull books from higher classes for her reading assignments in school.

It's thrilling to me, a writer and a compulsive reader, to see the joy she takes in finishing a chapter. To hear her read a complex word with confidence, then go back and count the letters to see if she beat her record (she was stuck at 11 for a long time, but finally hit 13 the other day). To see her pack half a dozen books so she can read at the bus stop, on the bus, before school starts...

Generally, evenings are family times. Even if we have practices or homework or dance class, Jim and I spend our time at least near the kids, if not directly interacting with them. We don't indulge in our own interests until they're in bed. But tonight he didn't want to wait. He proposed that they (ages 10 and 6) put themselves to bed while we went downstairs to watch the episode of Prison Break we TiVo'd last night.

I didn't think they'd go for it. In fact, I vetoed it repeatedly before they even got him to explain what he wanted. They both pounced on the idea and sent us on our way. They showered and got ready for bed all on their own, while we watched TV.

It felt so wrong, yet so good. :)

Anyway, what do these two things have to do with each other? M came down at 8:00, her bedtime, and said she was 4 pages from the end of her book and could she ppplllleeeeasssseee finish? I'm no stranger to the Finish the Book syndrome, so I said yes immediately. When she hugged me, she lingered. I was stretched out on the couch under a very soft fleece blanket (that ironically says, "It's All About Me" across the bottom) and apparently made a pretty comfy pillow. I said, "You can stay, but then you can't read." And she said...

Here it comes...

"I love you more than reading."

Can any kid make a more heartwarming statement to a mother?

Then she displayed her wit by immediately saying an emphatic "No!" when Daddy asked if she loved him more than soccer. (She hastened to assure him she was kidding. It was quite funny.)

So. My kids are smart. They love to read. They don't mind putting themselves to bed on a rare occasion. And Wentworth Miller gazed at me with those electric eyes off and on for 42 minutes.

Can life get any better than this?

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