Not Reading At The End of Kindergarten

June 9, 2015

S059QDGBOGSummer rose up sticky and sudden this week. The blissful temperate spring lingered so long this year. Days, weeks, and months of 70-80s with warmth in the sun and cool in the shade. Pack-a-sweater-for-the-morning-and-evening-and-you’re-comfortable-all-day-long weather deliciously lasted and lasted and lengthened on to the point I could postpone the realization that the temperature would soon spike and school would soon close for the season. That came this week. Yesterday at noon I was considering the air conditioner for reprieve. Usually I welcome feeling hot enough to want to swim and the break from school scheduling, but this year I caught myself saying ugh, dragging my heels a bit into summer because of one last thing I was sure was coming, but hasn’t happened yet. I thought my daughter would be reading. She isn’t.

At the library counter we registered for the summer reading program and she quietly told them how old she was, where she went to school, and she’d like the cheap miniature magnifying glass as her first prize; I quietly asked them if books I read to her counted. Four summers back when she was still in a baby carrier strapped across my back, I stood proudly with my son at the library counter, so excited to sign him up as a first time independent reader for the same program.

I know, I know, I know that comparing children is a huge no-no, but it’s almost impossible not to see one child as a measure to suppose what another might be like. I’m embarrassed that I feel so sheepish that my daughter is finishing kindergarten without passing (what I thought was) the benchmark achievement for that first year of school, the one my older one did much sooner. She was the one who asked for help with reading two years before kindergarten, I proudly bought some basic books and we set to work to fulfill her goal. She lost interest and I followed her lead, and continued reading voraciously to her, certain she’d regain interest in independent reading shortly. It’s been two and a half years since then, and we’ve lapped the bookshelves at our house, powering through picture books, chapter books and series, she sits happily beside me and listens (and pleads) for any hours I can lend her my reading abilities and still no. She hasn’t.

At school, while helping at an activity table, I could see her teacher with another group, marking their places in the entry level chapter book they had been reading in turn. I confess my disappointment, my daughter wasn’t tucked into that circle, or even the next level down. I wanted so much for my girl to read, to hit that rite of passage, but she hasn’t. I wonder if she minds?

I’ve read a mess of articles that make me panic or give me peace. There is a lot written on the subject of late bloomers and learning to read. I’ve wondered if I’ve done something wrong.  I have a reputation as a reader (I assumed they would too). I’m forever plowing through books on my own and aloud to kids, but and my six and a half year old still is not.  I’m concerned and she’s not; all my anxiety is my own.  Like the school year and spring cool, it’s time to let relax and realize in time things will turn, just maybe not when I thought they would.

“Mom,” Lucy says emphatically, shaking her copper head of hair for effect as she tugs my hands away from the computer where I was writing, “read to me.” She’s begging not so gently, shoving the final book in the Little House series into my lap and in place of my laptop.

Cleaning out the loft I find a copy of If You Give A Cat A Cupcake she has painstakingly recreated, writing out all the text in ragged capital letters, and drawn the illustrations as her own creation, a masterpiece that may infringe a few copyrights, but sets me in awe.

No, she’s not reading, but she’ll be ready soon.

I love reading so much, I can’t take the pleasure from it and force it too soon or too much. I’d hate to siphon any of joy of reading to fuel my jealous hope she’d read early or even when I was ready.

Do you struggle to let your children do things in their own timing? When did you and your children learn to read, and what do you love to read?


  1. Sandra Reddish

    June 9, 2015

    So so smart of you to take your cues from her not the school!!!! I forced my daughter to try to meet the benchmarks for kindergarten and first grade. We worked many extra hours at home on learning letters /sounds/ fluency trying to teach her. This damaged not only her reading ability
    but her self esteem and our relationship.

    I am still trying to repair the damage to our

    • Sandra

      June 9, 2015

      Thank you for your vote of confidence. I’m sorry you and your daughter struggled. The benchmarks aren’t definitive signs of cognition and learning, kids are taking in even if they have yet to perform. I confess I’m not a big driller- I don’t spend lots of time quizzing or memorizing with my kids, I feel like the best or more natural way (to me) is to teach them organically: reading, observing and engaging in the world around us- even if it isn’t the fastest. I just hope I’m giving them what they need.

  2. M2theh

    June 9, 2015

    When I was a kid kindergarten was for learning letters and numbers and you started to read in First Grade. I can still remember wanting to claw my own eyes out while struggling to get thru Dick and Jane. I would still happily drop kick Spot over a fence. I would sit on the front porch for hours struggling thru those horrible books, crying. It’s was awful. Reading was horrible. Once I finally made it thru Dick and Jane and found Dr. Seuss it was like a switch went on that reading was great and it’s been that way ever since.

    My daughter is a good reader, but she does not love reading like I do. Its been really hard for me to realize I can’t force her into loving reading, that I need to be happy that she is above grade level and that when she finds things she loves to read she gets absorbed and reads them. I have to accept she is not a mini me and doesn’t have to cart a book around everywhere she goes. I did tell her that is what I discovered what made going to the fabric store with my mom survivable. I learned that one from my dad, who is not a good reader but is never without a book.

    • Sandra

      June 9, 2015

      m2teth- Yes- someone please hang all the inane early reader books. At least I hope since she’s not a early reader we will surely be able to blast past those books and on into something much more savory. I’m with you on Seuss.

      And it is hard to not compare yourself to your kids as well- you hope that they will love what you love, but they aren’t miniatures. I love your advice from your dad.

  3. Jane Roberts

    June 9, 2015

    I was born in 1945. I still clearly remember the summer of 1953– the summer before I entered third grade! That was the summer when I finally began to be able to read simple books for myself. I spent the summer struggling through the Raggedy Ann books, one sentence at a time, but I loved them. Meanwhile my mother read to us from the Alice in Wonderland and Wizard of Oz books before bedtime.

    No, I was not backward. Children were just not expected in those days to be able to read until third grade, possibly later.

    • Sandra

      June 9, 2015

      Jane- Wow. Things really have changed. I love that you fondly remember learning to read.

  4. Karen

    June 9, 2015

    When my 4th child was in 2nd grade the teacher wanted to put her into a remedial reading class. At that time kids could get labeled slow readers and that label would stay with them. I refused because I knew she would start reading, she just was not at the point that reading was exciting for her. I was right. She became a voracious reader, she just had to do it at her own speed. She grew to be a girl who spends her extra money on books and was good friends with all of her school and public librarians (they would buy books that she wanted).
    Sometimes you just have to follow your instincts and do what is best for your child. In different circumstances it might have been best to have a child take that reading class. I am grateful that the schools my younger kids are in do not seem to label the kids, and going to a special reading class is not a drawback for the kids in those schools.

    I remember reading in first grade, we had a “I’m a bookworm” program and we got to put parts of the bookworm up on the classroom wall for each book we read. But when I remember really starting to love reading was 5th grade. My teacher had a wonderful classroom library, and I read Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH. I learned about Newbery winners that year, and knew they could almost always be counted on to be excellent books. I still try to read each years winners.

  5. eljee

    June 9, 2015

    This is one of the reasons why I homeschool. I personally don’t feel that the benchmarks that our society has created for children’s academic development are appropriate in the early years. My oldest went to public school. He was not reading at the end of kindy either, and I was relieved that his teacher did not push it. Most of the other parents in the class were angry with the teacher for not pushing things harder. He began reading in first grade. It was plainly obvious when he was ready. Once he was ready, he took off and has never looked back. My daughter is currently 8.5 years old and reading is progressing very slowly. I worry, more about what people think than about anything else. She is progressing consistently and doesn’t have any signs of learning disabilities, so in my heart I know I need to just be patient. I know she is on her own schedule that is just right for her. It is also the schedule I believe is best for many kids. But I am sensitive to the opinions of outsiders; I hear the little whispered comments… so far none about her directly, but about homeschoolers and academics in general. Overall, I am grateful that she can go at her own pace and not have to worry about what anyone else is doing. Her little friend who also was progressing slowly in reading got put back into school and was immediately placed in remedial classes, is now marked by the other children as not being up to par, and gets teased about not being able to read well. My daughter is oblivious, and for that I am so grateful. She knows that many other kids read better than she does, but she knows that she has other talents which they don’t have. And she isn’t placed into an environment where her lack is shoved down her throat all day long. This is one of my soapbox issues–I wonder how our society has gotten to this point. Reading is good and wonderful and necessary, but our children have years ahead of them to master it. The only “rush” is the rush which we as as society have created ourselves.

  6. RMM

    June 9, 2015

    If a child is hovering at the edge of being able to read, one thing I’ve seen work time and time again is the book “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.” It usually only takes about 10 or 12 of the lessons but it helps the child make that breakthrough association between letters and sounds and meaning.

    Most public libraries should have a copy.

  7. Kathy

    June 9, 2015

    The fact your daughter wants you to read to her sounds like you’re on the right track. I’m new enough as this game where I have only one child reading and the rest preschool ages. I think you’re doing well, though I well give one helpful idea that you might or might not have tried. When teaching Lorenzo to read, I would insist he read one word,like “the” whenever we would run into that word. When I felt he was comfortable with that, I would have him read two specific words, then three. I hope this helps. Otherwise, you’re doing fine

  8. heather arnita

    June 9, 2015

    I home schooled my oldest 2 daughters. My oldest was late to reading. She was about 9 when she really took off. I was really patient with her slower pace until she hit about 8. Then I started to panic. The year between 8 and 9 was one of the worst years of my life. I felt like her lack of reading ability was my fault and that I had failed her. She finally found a series that motivated her to really read (thank you Rick Riordan! ) and she took off.

    I thought my second daughter was headed on the same trajectory but as she hit 10 and was still struggling I finally acknowledged that I had had suspicions for a while that there was something else going on. After another very stressful year she was finally diagnosed with dyslexia.

    My experiences taught me a lot. One is that alot of kids will get reading eventually on their own time table. We just need to surround them with good books and give them some good phonics. We need to be patient but we also need to be aware of the early warning signs of reading disabilities. My second daughter suffered for a lot longer than she needed to. But I am glad we finally figured out what she needed.

  9. Courtney

    June 9, 2015

    I have five children and my youngest has dyslexia. Two of mine learned to read no problem. Two had some trouble with phonics, I got them a little extra help in 1st grade and they seemed to catch on okay. My fifth struggled. He got more and more behind. We figured out he had dyslexia about 3/4 of the way through first grade. I guess that is pretty early but I wish we had figured it out sooner instead of assuming that he would get it like the other kids. Even in just the short time his dyslexia went undiagnosed, it caused a lot of emotional pain and anxiety in him.

    I hope that your daughter is a later bloomer and it will all fall into place but if you see any indicators that it may be dyslexia, I strongly encourage you to have her tested and to begin intervention. As wonderful as our schools and teachers are, most have received little to no training on teaching children to read with dyslexia. Children with dyslexia do best when taught using a research-based multisensory systematic approach with a strong basis in phonemic awareness (typically based on an Orton-Gillingham approach). Whole language based reading programs are not a good fit.

    Dyslexia is a spectrum and not all will have the same symptoms but it is estimated that 1 in 5 people are affected (looking back I actually think my other two who struggled with reading also have dyslexia but to a lesser extent). Some early signs include:
    – A family member with dyslexia (it is highly hereditary)
    – Difficulty rhyming
    – Delayed speech
    – Confusion with right versus left
    – Often highly intelligent which can often mask the dyslexia as the child is able to pick up on other other clues even when they can’t read

    My youngest has been receiving extra help through special ed at school as well as a private tutor who has specific training and we have seen significant improvement in his reading. We are not over it, but I am really glad I intervened and got him the help needed when I did. I have had friends whose kids have been diagnosed in 5th and 7th grade and it is a much harder road.

    Off the soapbox. You have such a lucky girl to have a mom who reads to her when she can’t do it yet herself.

  10. Sandra

    June 10, 2015

    Thank you so much for the thoughtful comments. Love to all those who have struggled with patience as your child makes their way. It’s all a good reminder there really isn’t one way or one timetable to learn. I’m glad for good teachers (at school and parent-teachers at home) that don’t push kids and meet them where they are with patience and faith. I’m so glad for all those who have been able to home school when it suited them best and give their kids the individualized time and attention. Some of the parents I admire most are exceptional home schoolers.
    I’m lucky her kindergarten teacher and I are on the same page and she reassured me that she’s fine now, and even though she isn’t reading independently, her ability focus and comprehend the text is especially well tuned, and that me reading to her was far more important than any other form of reading assistance, phonics or flash cards That made me happy. So we continue on.

    I appreciate all the helpful recommendations to watch for learning disabilities, I haven’t dealt with that yet, but it is wise to know how to see that extra hurdle in the way.

    And graciously reading to her isn’t just a joy for her, but also for me too.

  11. Rachel

    June 10, 2015

    Your daughter will always associate love, warmth, and togetherness with reading, and that’s a big something to proud of. Well done, mom!

  12. jks

    June 11, 2015

    I appreciate the fact that I found out that kids learn to read by the second half of first grade. Before that, it is simply developmental. You don’t stress about whether a 12 month old is speaking. You do, however, still speak to them and interact with them giving them plenty of language development opportunities so they can begin speaking when their brain is ready.
    I have some super smart kids (highly capable programs) but non of them were reading more than 3 letter p-a-n words plus some sight words by the end of kindergarten. But all of them took off by the time beginning of first grade came around.
    I am glad you are trying to keep your anxiety at bay because you realize it is NOT a problem.
    I have one child with learning disabilities, so please take note if your child is struggling at the end of 1st grade. Get professional help, school help and get educated on how to tutor kids with possible reading learning disabilities.
    My son had a learning disability (not reading, but speaking, auditory language processing types of things). You can give a kid extra help without ever making them feel like they have a problem. The earlier the better!
    Here are tips for helping children who are struggling in any area:
    1. Praise hard work and effort….not just about that, but about anything and not just about them, but about everyone. If someone plays the guitar well, mention that he must have practiced A LOT. If someone compliments you, say thank you and that you’ve been practicing or you worked hard.
    2. Insist/Encourage/Require your child to work on their strengths, not just their weaknesses. If a child loves science/sports/art insist that they spend time practicing that . My son never thought I was giving him language therapy in the form of his extra assignments because he was “stupid” or “wasn’t good at it” because he also had to do extra math or we spent time reading science books. All learning was pushed. Also, in a strong area their improvement is quicker so they see the pay off. They become good at math…..why? Because they did extra practice! So the connection between becoming better at something and practice is made. The connection is harder to see in their weak areas because despite the extra practice, they always feel like they are behind. My son is in 9th grade now and he is such a hard worker and believes in himself. While now we are open in our conversations that “writing is something you find challenging” and “you won’t be ready for AP history in 10th grade because you aren’t ready for college writing yet” he has complete confidence that each year of English class will teach him to improve and he will be ready for college level writing when he gets to college.

  13. Karen

    June 13, 2015

    My husband and I have both been college English teachers, yet our first son was very slow to read. When he was in 2nd grade I was freaking out about this. He’s now 17 and reads on grade level and reads for pleasure. He’s not going to be an English teacher. It’s not his “thing.” But we took him to the library as a school-aged kid and filled the house with books. My husband read to him a lot–an hour every night for about four years. My son can handle complex ideas by listening and talking more than reading. The school suggested testing, and we found out his weaknesses (several LDs), but the tests also revealed his many academic strengths. I taught basic writing for a few years at the college level, and I loved my students. There was no SINGLE cause for why they lagged: some had learning disabilities, some had English as a 2nd or 3rd language, some had attention issues, some were extremely kenesthetic learners, some just really didn’t have a strong drive to achieve in school even if they did have the skill set. I use Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligence to help them see that people have different strengths. I was there to help them elevate their verbal intelligence, but I wanted to honor all other types of intelligence and skills. You are a GREAT mom doing GREAT things. You will find your path. My story may not help you at all, but you have great ability and you’ll find a way to nurture and support your child through these school years.

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