My favorite thing about Joey reading is that he laughs out loud at the funny parts.
There are many things about Joey that remind me of myself. I suppose this is true for all parents, but it still surprises me because he's a boy. It's odd to see so much of yourself in someone who is so fundamentally opposite. It started when he was a newborn, and he wailed dramatically just to eat, easily comforted when he finally got what he wanted after being made to wait a whopping ten extra seconds. My mom saw this and raised her eyebrows. She looked at me knowingly and said, "Who does THAT remind me of?"
It's more pronounced now. There have always been the flickers of me in his regular actions, like when he chooses to draw with chalk instead of play catch with father. When he uses his superhero action figures to create complex storylines instead of having them battle. When he loses time watching the leaves fall from the trees, perfectly content to just sit and daydream. All of these things and more drive my husband crazy, because I guess when you wait all your life to be a father to a son, you don't conjure up the image of a happy little dreamer.
But Joey is so lovable as he is, there's no danger of wanting him to be different. And also, like everyone else in our family, he has stubbornness issues. Even if we did try to encourage him to be anything else, it wouldn't work. He'd resist us fiercely and in his totally matter-of-fact, why-are-you-bothering way.
It's the reading thing that has really spelled it out for us. Joey took to reading fast. We show him words only once or twice, and they are committed to his memory forever. I remember one day in kindergarten, my husband said, "Maybe he should be reading by now." I'm a teacher, but I teach older kids, so I had no idea. I made a face, shrugged a shoulder, and said, "I'm sure they're working on it at school," a phrase that I completely abhor as a teacher and a parent and I still can't believe it was my mentality. It just hadn't occurred to me that he could be old enough to read. "No," my husband said. "We should be doing it now."
So I started filling up Post-It notes with sight words, and then basic words, and then words that turned up in our stories that Joey asked about. We stuck the notes on our kitchen cupboards, and before long our kitchen was a rainbow of words, words, words. Everywhere. On the microwave and the refrigerator, too. And Joey knew them all.
After reading became less of a novelty and more of a, "just what he does" thing, Joey became obsessed with writing. I've always taken for granted that I'm great at spelling and figuring words out from having read so much, but I realized it had to have started somewhere even if I don't remember. We started our Post-It words over again, clearing the cupboards and making room for a new list. Joey began a story on Microsoft Word, his fingers hovering hesitantly over the keys while he struggled to recall where each letter was located. Each time he needed help spelling a word (which was all of them at first), I'd write it carefully on a Post-It and put it up where he could see it. This process only lasted a couple of weeks. After that, he didn't need the Post-Its anymore at all.
When Joey brought home his first report card, it goes without saying that his strongest performance was in Reading and English Language Arts. Art class, Literacy and Library, and Computers gave glowing compliments. He did well in his other subjects, too, but you could see from the teacher comments that his magic comes from the right side of his brain. My husband read the comments and...not quite frowning, looked puzzled. He's an accountant. He loves numbers. He loves charts, especially color-coded ones. He looked up and said slowly, "I think...this must be exactly what your report card looked like when you were in school."
Stupidly, I beamed.
For all of it, nothing fills me with as much joy as when Joey is curled in the sofa with a book or a borrowed Kindle, eyebrows furrowed, lips moving silently to the words on the page. The room is quiet, and I watch him. Suddenly, the frown of deep thought disappears, completely erased as though he is surprised by some delightful part of the story I cannot know. The corners of his mouth curve up, so like his father, his teeth showing in a grin. He closes his eyes, tips his head back, and lets out a loud and wonderful laugh. Sometimes it's accompanied by an, "Oh, man! That's hilarious!" and sometimes he just reads on. But it is wonderful to me that he has the ability to lose himself and enjoy the words so thoroughly.
For me, reading has always been magic. But my son as a reader? More. Much more.
Writing at Age 5
Reading at Age 12 (on a phone...what is this world?!)