So, I love books. A lot. More than just about anything on this earth. You know that about me by now. Imagine growing up surrounded by all these books I own. Heaven, right? to you and me, a definite exuberant shout of yes.
Remember when you were learning to read? If your brain sees a word it doesn't know, we stop and recognize that we don't know it, and try to figure it out. Imagine if your brain just put a word in place of that, that it already knew. Without you knowing. So what you read isn't what is there before you, but you can't see what's different unless someone shows you. That's part of what my daughter is facing, we know now. She has a memory retrieval problem, a learning disability.
She also has an auditory problem. She misses cues in class, and she can't absorb much information through her ears. She has normal hearing, but something happens to the word on the way into the brain, and it doesn't get placed in her auditory center, it doesn't quite reach it. So in a world where most schooling is through sound, it's all confusion and noise for my 8 year old. She doesn't hear explanations, and ideas have to be broken up into visual clues for her to understand them. This is another learning disability, called Auditory Processing Disorder. She was just diagnosed two weeks ago, as soon as she was old enough for the test to confirm what her amazing support teachers at school have suspected.
Combine the two, and ask her what it means when in a story a boy is travelling to see his mother, the question how he feels, and she doesn't understand what the question is. She missed the idea that he was nervous because he was travelling alone, and that his gift to his mother was his way of showing he loved her. It means we have to find another way of showing her what the words mean, and try to find a way to explain the meaning behind the words, the idea they are trying to express. Before now, I never even wondered how we do it, because I always knew it. This extends to her math, her science, her social sciences: everything that uses words, has to be explained in two or three different ways before she begins to grasp what is being presented. I'm not complaining, I'm puzzled and bewildered at the enormity of having to make sure my daughter understands her homework every night before she starts it, and usually having to read it myself so I can find yet another way to show her. I am beginning to realize how much our world relies on knowledge and understanding of the written word, and how much we convey about everything, through writing.
It means that the learning that I love to do, the experiences I know from school, the challenge of learning that I loved and exceeded in (except in math), are not experiences my daughter knows. She is making huge improvements this year in her reading, and she is trying very hard. She is learning how to read in two languages also- English and French. She is bright, and funny, and sweet, and caring, and kind.
But she doesn't pick up a book for fun to read, and neither does her older brother except occasionally - he also has a learning disability, that he has mostly learned to work around. The youngest one is already being tested along the same lines.
So, I look around me at all these lovely books, and I wonder, how can I get my daughter (and my son eventually) to want to read? Can I do more to create a love of books? Or is it something one finds spontaneously, within one's self?
How ironic is it that in a house full of books, which the child experts on literacy all recommend, and the library cards each child got as soon as they were born, I am the only one who loves to read for pure pleasure, all the time? The universe has a strange sense of humour, to give me three children who struggle to make sense of the written word. They all love to buy me books! Which I love. I think I would love it even more if one of them came running to me and said, "Mommy, there's a book I saw that I want......." I still envision my children all reading for pleasure one day. We have found with both of them that if we can find a book in the subject they like, they will look at it - animals for Holly, and soccer for Graham. My son loves sports, so we've tricked him into letter recognition by getting World Cup albums.
I don't think I will take the ability to read for granted ever again.