When I was in the early days of motherhood, a second-time parent was the most awesome of creatures. Unlike my equally tentative first-time parent peers, these multitasking magicians were full of emphatic answers, whenever I dared approach them on the playground.
I knew I had given birth to two unique individuals. Still, as far as parenting challenges went, reading was firmly filed under “I got this.”
Ello occupied a sweet spot in our parent-child negotiations. I wanted him to read, he wanted to play on his iPad: violà, the Ello compromise.
Dylan grew into Ello: beyond the prizes, as he got books that were more engaging, I could see his pride in working his way through stories such as Balto, the heroic Siberian husky whose statue he had seen with his grandma in Central Park. He developed a rapport with the turquoise elephant, too, critiquing the jokes and complimenting the choice of videos.
It was a slow and steady climb, until one day, mid-first grade, we were at the bookstore shopping for holiday gifts. A chapter book caught Dylan’s eye. A long one. “I want to read that,” he told me. I had my doubts. He was unwavering. We brought it home.
Over the next week, I watched Dylan muscle his way through the first chapter, page after painstaking page, his entire body engaging with the challenge of hoisting himself up to this new reading level. It was all him. No parenting playbook. No parenting roadmap. With a dose of determination I had only seen him exhibit in the activities in which he felt most at home. Without warning, he had turned a corner and was heading for the straightaway. It was clear I needed to stand back and let him do his thing.
Dylan grew into Ello: beyond the prizes, as he got books that were more engaging, I could see his pride in working his way through stories… He developed a rapport with the turquoise elephant, too, critiquing the jokes and complimenting the choice of videos.
The next in-school reading assessment, he rushed home to tell me he had leaped two levels: as much as tests aren’t my thing, his proud face was all I needed to see.