Becoming a Free Reader; a blessing or a curse?

My daughter became a free reader in year one, she was  highly motivated to complete all the reading levels and took great pride in her reading ability standing up every Friday to be recognised as a five times a week reader and subsequent, swift move through the levelled reading books resulted in the mantle of free reader a lot earlier than many of her peers.

The guild of the title, free reader soon tarnished when it became apparent that without the safety net of the levelled book-shelves finding appropriate reading material was now significantly harder and there was little extrinsic motivation, apart from the weekly assembly.

But surely the intrinsic motivation of being able to enjoy a good book would now be enough? This is where there is a difference between being a free reader and a fluent one.

To be a free reader you must complete the reading levels, and this is heavily reliant on decoding skills as opposed to understanding the text being read.  

My daughter may well be a free reader, but she is yet to be a fluent reader and often needs to use her finger to keep her place and will misread many words which affects her comprehension of the text. She struggles to retell the story and is often reading the words but not enjoying the story.

She is now in year two and we have hit an impasse with books. I am constantly asking for recommendations for appropriate reading materials for her but very few books pique her interest. Her main line of argument with the various choices I make for her is that there aren’t enough pictures. She is still very young and obviously needs more visual context cues than pure text allows. 

Reading has therefore become a chore and is a means to an end; getting those five recorded times in the reading record in order to stand up in assembly.  Another book to try arrived the other evening and she stumbled her way through the first couple of pages. This carefully chosen book featured a girl, very like my daughter in looks and character,  who went on adventures with her friend. I was under the false impression this would be the perfect text for my daughter to read and when she appeared to dislike yet another of my choices, I was annoyed. Cue a lecture from me about the importance of enjoying a good story and how important reading is and how she should be reading more, enjoying books more, getting into stories more.  What kind of monster have I turned into? I am lecturing my 7-year-old when I should be trying harder to find out what she wants to read.

We ditched the book and I asked her to choose something she wanted to read she said quietly, she liked fact books and immediately I said, no she should be reading fiction. Why? I chided myself later. Why, should she be reading fiction? My husband hasn’t chosen to read a fictional book since his school days and he is a relatively well-adjusted successful human. Well, she should read fiction because I do. Nothing controlling about that. (There is more to my insistence on reading fiction and there are several credible reasons why reading fiction is important, but the current issue is my daughter’s developing dislike of reading)

Reading is the most important of skills and permeates every subject like no other. She will be reading and attempting to understand stuff for the rest of her life but the habit of reading often appears reliant on reading at home.

Through my job and general obsession with literacy I am immersed in the subject and struggle to support my daughter’s learning to read.  Writing this blog has left me questioning how other parents feel about reading and their child’s development of reading skills. 

Schools all tackle teaching reading differently but I can’t help feeling that schools need to embed a culture of reading and provide more guidance for families on how children learn to read and what they can do to support their children developing these skills.