Elena reads with me every day at 12:00. She has just finished her snack, adjusted her cat-ear headband, picked up her bag of books, and skipped out of the classroom. Reading with Elena has reminded me of childhood joys and confusions. She is effervescent in her enthusiasm for rainbows, unicorns, and kittens. Everyday her outfits are planned even in their chaotic color schemes. One day, we read a book about the life cycle of the frog. She looked up with a bright smile and announced, “Tomorrow I’m going to wear my life cycle butterfly shirt. I have one!” I loved the fashion/book connections she makes.
Uncovering the factors inhibiting Elena’s reading progress continues to be a fascinating challenge. When I measured her reading rate at 27 wpm (2nd grade), I knew there was a mystery to solve. I watched her eyes and observed that she read every sentence silently before she read it aloud. I asked her if that was what she was doing. She said that she did that so she wouldn’t make mistakes. I assured her that she could keep reading aloud without reading silently first, and that she could trust me to help her if she came to a tricky spot.
I was reminded of childhood confusions when Elena reacted to the phrase, “the farmer planted a garden.” She looked up and said, “What? Everyone knows you plant SEEDS in a garden. You can’t plant a GARDEN in a garden!” Her exuberance filled the room. Sparkly eyes, dimpled cheeks, and bright smile were tough to argue with.
I suddenly remembered having a complete misunderstanding of the word “radar” as a six-year old. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t comprehend the phrase, “Speed checked by radar.” Who was radar? Was radar that huge machine I saw on the horizon? (Many years later, I learned that was a crane.) Would it pick up cars like the magnets in the cartoons I watched?
I was humbled and reminded that confusions are part of learning and need to be treated clearly and gently.