COOKING DUMPLINGS: Thoughts on Raising Kids (and Readers)

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.

Happy Reading!


9 thoughts on “COOKING DUMPLINGS: Thoughts on Raising Kids (and Readers)

  1. I love your analogies, Laura! Great advice. My stepson loved being read to, but he was way behind in his “reading level” in school. When he was nine he discovered the Tin Tin Tin graphic novels and jumped to fifth grade reading level in one summer. My little dumpling is now a PHD physicist! All in good time.

  2. Great post, Laura! It reminds me how in school we’re supposed to teach to the student’s level (developmentally appropriate practice), not the typical age expectations. I love the standards as guides, but you have to know your students’, or in your case, child’s, interests and abilities if that reader is going to find success and joy in it. Thanks for sharing!

  3. My daughter was once told she needed to speed up her reading, 4th or 5th grade, and I told her to tell her ‘reading assistant’/ para, that reading is like chocolate, you can gobble or savor it! Excellent post!

  4. The dumpling cooking instructions reminded me of real Turkish coffee, which should be brought to a boil seven times…
    Rushing through child rearing is like a mad dash to the grave: why, when children grow up so fast?
    I have found that raising readers requires, in addition to stopping and tending as you say, also having a house full of books and being a reader. (I wonder how a house full of books will manifest in the E-reader age… that’s an aside.)
    So stop and smell the coffee, savor the dumplings, and read. 🙂

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