My eight year old, Heidi, has started saying that she hates reading. I’ve gone through grief: the denial, shock, horror, anger, remorse and bargaining. How is someone to cope when her child says such a ridiculous thing?

But the girl does love stories. She is an audio book enthusiast and the first one to remind me to read aloud at lunchtime. I’ve told her many times that she doesn’t have enough experience reading to decide whether or not she likes it. She’s still practicing.

The other day, my husband, David, was looking for something to do while the kids were at their cross country practice. Normally my husband runs too but his fall allergies are killing him and he just wanted to sit in the car this time around. I handed him Jeff Wheeler’s The Queen’s Poisoner, wondering what he would think of the magic system. (My husband is famously over critical of magic systems.)

When he got home I asked him how he liked it. “I’m not used to actually reading books,” he said, shaking his head. David is a huge audio book fan, but rarely takes the time to sit down and read. “I kept trying to multi-task. When it got to a descriptive section, I’d look at my phone for a minute, expecting that part to have passed when I looked back over at the book.”

I found this hilarious. It reminded me of a conversation I had with my mom a few days before. My mom has never been a big reader, but she recently became an empty-nester and tells me that now, she’ll read books but she reads quite slow and can only read when the house is empty.

“How come you can only read when the house is empty?” I asked.

“Because I read out loud to myself and it’s embarrassing if anyone else is around,” she told me.

I began to tell her about Heidi’s trouble with reading. She explained that she’s noticed some people read a phrase at a time while she has to read one word at a time. She asked if maybe Heidi is a word-by-word-er, and mentioned that finding the right book that is interesting to her is key.

If anyone has any suggestions for a romantic book appropriate for second graders let me know…

Heidi’s issue is that she refuses to sound out words she doesn’t know. She would prefer to guess what a word is based on context and the first letter. I feel like she would have a lot more success if she was even using the first two letters instead of the first one. I’ve taken advantage of our stint homeschooling to go back to the drawing board with phonics, even though she is reading at a level appropriate for her grade level. I was worried that this would make her dread reading all the more, but it doesn’t. After ten minutes working on phonics, she’s able to read through Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and sounds out words like Viking without pause. Even though before she read it as Vizimberkig.

I believe everyone’s reading is unique. How do you like to read? Are you an audible junkie? Do you like to snuggle in with a slow, immersive masterpiece you can feel between your fingers? Do you read in phrases or word-by-word? Have you been known to add words into sentences, or even sentences into paragraphs, that just aren’t there? Maybe you are one of those read-the-end-first kind of readers. I’d love to hear about your unique reading experience.

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