I recently purchased a package of frozen dumplings from the Asian market. Eager to taste them, I filled a pot with water and grabbed my trusty timer. I’ve prepared dumplings in the past and a timer has always been essential. These directions, however, called for something different. With no reference to time, they instructed me to boil 10 cups of water then gently stir in the dumplings. Once the water boiled again, I was to add an additional cup of cold water wait for the water to reboil, then repeat. After the third re-boil, the package insisted, the dumplings would be ready. So, instead of using my timer like I usually do, I watched and waited, stirring occasionally. Lo and behold, these untimed dumplings were the best we’ve ever had.
Raising kids in general, and readers in particular, is a lot like cooking dumplings. It’s tempting, sometimes, to set a timer for when we think our children should reach certain milestones. But trying to force them to walk, talk, read etc. when they aren’t ready yet, is frustrating not only for the parent, but also for the child. The better strategy, I think, is to take the dumpling approach. That is be patient, observant, and stir gently when needed.
When it comes to fostering a love of reading in my kids, this has meant steadfastly providing daily opportunities for reading, but being patient about their progress, rather than obsessed about what their reading level “should” be. It has meant observing their reading likes and dislikes and then gently stirring good books into our weekly collection from the library. So far, it’s working. My son, age 12, is a strong and avid reader. My daughter, age eight, isn’t yet, but with patience, observation, and gentle stirring of her readerly interests, she’s cooking up in her own time.
If you need some spot-on suggestions for good books to gently stir your dumplings’ readerly interests, I suggest the following resources: Elizabeth Kennedy’s “Children’s Books” and Gail Terp’s “Best Blog for Kids Who Hate to Read”. And don’t forget about your local children’s librarian. He/she is also a treasure trove of good book suggestions for eager and reluctant readers.