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A State of Reading Independence


leprechaun-in-mid-winterMy seven-year-old daughter reached, what I would call, a state of reading independence over the weekend. She’s been on the brink of being able to read chapter books for some time. She had made significant in-roads into Alice in Wonderland (too odd), Anne of Green Gables (too many words she didn’t understand), The Magician’s Nephew (almost good enough but not quite) and some modern version of a Nancy Drew story (utterly rubbish and she knew it) but never finished them.

On Thursday, she came home from school with a Scholastic book called Leprechaun in Late Winter by Mary Pope Osborne from the Magic Treehouse series. When I came home from work on Friday, she proudly reported to me that she’s finished the book. She’d read it all Thursday evening, taken it to school, read during recess and had even kept it open on her desk during lessons.

Realising this was a special moment in a young girl’s reading education, her mother drove downtown on Saturday and picked up two more Magic Treehouse books – Night of the New Magicians and Carnival at Candlelight.

Sunday morning was blissfully quiet for me. No demands for kids shows on TV. My daughter locked herself away in her room, while I sat around drinking tea and reading magazines (Sports Illustrated and Canada’s History Magazine aka The Beaver). The only problem came when my four-year-old daughter threw herself on to the floor and screamed, “I’ve got no-one to play with. I’ve got no-one to play with,” while hitting the floor with her tiny clenched fists.

By 1.20pm on Sunday, the seven-year-old had finished both books, and was already begging for more Magic Treehouse books.

It’s taken seven long years to get to this stage. Goodness only knows how many books I have read to her. I still read to her in the evenings (currently on Harry Potter 3) but I now know that the literary world is her oyster. She now has the desire to finish each book she attempts, she can figure out 95% of the words and make a very good stab at the other 5%, so my work is done. My daughter is in French immersion so she’s never received any formal reading teaching in English so this has been a joint effort between her mother and I. Oddly, both her English and French reading abilities have come on massively in the past three months – almost as if she reached a Malcolm Gladwell-style tipping point.

I’d never heard of Mary Pope Osborne until last week, but now I’d like to shake her hand.

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Richard Davies

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