Hysteria, reading, and going for the Oscar…

So, we are working on reading. I have developed a series of fun interactive games to help her learn to read. For example, we make letters out of rope, name words that begin with those letters, and then walk the letter tightrope. We made a ladybug word wheel, that had a strip of letters rotating in the middle, and the letter “ug” on the end, so we can get hug, bug, rug, etc. We have a basket of letters that she gets to pick from, and we write and read as many words that begin with that letter, we have alphabet bingo, we have level appropriate books. Each time we start a new activity, she is engaged and happy, and does really well. However, each time we go back to an old activity, she doesn’t want to work at it. She sighs after each letter, she cries if she can’t read the word the very first time, and in the end, she is a screaming, crying mess. I have not been a pushy, mean mommy. I have not let my frustration show. When she gets like this, I tell her we will go back to reading later, when she is less frustrated. This results in her blowing up and screaming and crying even harder. Right now, she is in her room screaming her head off about how she “will give me all her attention and won’t yawn anymore”. I put her down for a nap after we tried to read the word “huff” about three hundred times. We were having a really hard time, she was getting really tired, but she didn’t want to stop, and each time I suggested it, she got really upset. She would sound the word out, get it right, forget it, sound it out, yawn, get it right, cry, calm down, sound it out while yawning and rubbing her eyes, forget it, sound it out… you get the picture. I told her we would try again later, but each time I tell her that she starts screaming about how she is never going to read, that it is too hard.

Is it wrong to want to just scream when your kid complains that the 30 minutes to an hour of game filled reading exercises are too hard? I mean, it must be hell on wheels to have to circle all the items in a picture that begin with the letter f. It must be the worst thing ever to have to sit still for five minutes trying to read the world “bug” on a ladybug shaped word wheel that you get to spin for the beginning letter. Argh!!

And yet, if I show my frustration, she is going to pick up on it and this will all get worse. The worst about it is, she is good! She is reading! She read five pages of a book this morning in about 10 minutes, and then she melted down into madness. Yesterday, she read all the words on her bug wheel, and then melted down into madness. The more she is able to read, the more she cries about not being able to read. We celebrate each word she reads with hugs and smiles, but any time she encounters a single hard word, she loses it. We talk about how reading is hard, and no one picks up a book and starts reading it right away. We discuss the importance of practice, but she still gives up right away.

Thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions? Laudanum?

9 thoughts on “Hysteria, reading, and going for the Oscar…”

  1. Stop sooner.

    No really, 30 min to 1 hour is too much time, I think. Try 15 minutes and then end on a really positive note. Try to phrase your stopping as something that has nothing to do with her, but that you have something else you ladies need to do next. Look for positive reinforcement.

    Sort of like weight training, don’t lift to failure so you keep the negative part out of the picture. End sooner while reading and you’ll both be happier. Kids get frustrated easily and then you hear all of the awful “I’ll NEVER be able to do this!” stuff that makes you (and I) insane. You know your kid is smart, but she (like Caitlin) is not used to having to WORK and put her brain in gear.

    They’re good at making spontaneous connections, but having to WORK? That’s for grown-ups!

    Kate will have plenty more official correct teacherly things to say, I’m sure, but that’s my 2 cents!

    And when you say, “Let’s try this later.”, close up the book or whatever and don’t give in to theatrics. YOU want to have a positive experience, too! Every time you give in, your frustration probably mounts and it becomes uglier when you finally do end. A little crying now instead of 3-4 crying jags until you’re REALLY done.

    Let me know how it goes!

  2. Good advice. I will start stopping sooner. I can certainly do several short reading periods throughout the day instead of one long one.

    See, this is why I need you around!! (Well this and the simple fact that you keep me sane!)

  3. I would let it go completely and focus on going on walks and catching fireflys and having her be a little girl and let her learn to read in school. General exposure to knowledge and the world (museums, beach, etc.) will give her a life-long foundation for a love of learning which beats the heck out of “first reader in kindergarten class.”

  4. We are doing a lot of fun firefly catching little girl stuff too. But she is really interested in learning how to read, we keep stopping for a while, and she always brings it back up. My general rule is to wait until she asks to learn something. Unless of course she has to learn it, like the correct way to brush her teeth, or not to stick a fork in an outlet.

    She is a big beach fan though, maybe I can make a “reading at the beach” activity too. Though the book would likely get really, really wet!! 😉

  5. Think back a couple months and how you and I felt by 8:00 p.m. — ready to tell the examiners what they can do with their test, and even readier to help them do it. Intense concentration is difficult.

    Also think about this — between you and your husband (undoubtedly two of the smartest people I know) reading is clearly very important in your house. It doesn’t matter if you’ve actually articulated, kids pick up on these kinds of things. And your kid probably knew it about 3 weeks into gestation. She wants to do well at this, really well. When she can’t read a word, she feels like she’s failed. And when you give up, she feels like she’s failed even more and has dissapointed you.

    But Tracy’s right (I can figure out the T and the K, but what does the E stand for?), an hour is too long (but then again, wtf do I know?). You might want to keep all lessons down, just so when one stops she knows it has stopped because time is up rather than because she has failed once again.

  6. I have a ton of ideas and lesson plans that will remove the whole emotional scene from the picture. Really.

    However, I type slowly. Can I call you around 6 Colorado time? Tracy gave me your number.


  7. Great ideas all!! I mean it! Kathleen, you may call me anytime, I will try and answer!! I look forward to your advice! Please call!!

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