It’s from Little Women. It is arguably the climax of the story, when Jo Marsh finally gets married. At this point in the story, all the other sisters have gotten married. Jo had thought for a while that she would never get married, but then she does and it’s beautiful.
We just had this moment as a family. My sister, my dear Abby, got married last month. There are four of us siblings, just like in Little Women, and the three others have already gotten married, and now it was Abby’s turn.
I was my sister’s matron of honor. So, I thought I’d share my speech from the reception. There was much crying when I read it, so get some tissues if you need.
For clarity, I am specifically going to talk about my own experience with one of my children, and what I have done that has helped my family.
What do I mean by “Struggling Reader”?
There are lots of definitions and terms in talking about students and reading. A reluctant reader or struggling reader is typically a student who is not motivated to read, does not enjoy reading, complains about reading, etc. The student may find the process of reading difficult to do, yet, without practice they cannot advance their reading skills or fluency. So, because they don’t practice reading takes more work, so it is hard, and therefore not enjoyable. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle.
My eldest son is a struggling reader. His birthday is late August. So, just because of where his birthday falls he is one of the youngest kids in his class. Reading has not – to this point, over halfway through the school year – come easily for him. It’s hard for him, and therefore he is not super motivated to do it.
My son is a typical human. He wants to do what is fun! Not hard! He’d way rather go run around, or build Legos, or tease his sisters, or really anything else besides read.
As his mom, and as a person who really loves to read, and write, I have found this struggle of his really hard for me! I know I shouldn’t take it personally, but sometimes I do. I want my son to enjoy what I enjoy. I want him to love books. I don’t want him to struggle. I don’t want him to have difficulty in school when I know he is a smart, capable child. And, and, and, and… (cue the spiral of mom guilt).
But let’s not wallow.
What have we done?
What have we done to help our son, and all our kids? It’s pretty straight forward: we have worked to foster a love of stories. Not a love of books (not specifically), but stories.
This has turned out to be key for our son. If we force the books issue, then books become an obstacle at best, and the bad guy at worst. If we instead make the issue stories, that opens up a whole range of things for him, including shows, movies, audiobooks, bible stories (my kids don’t count the bible as a “regular book”. Kid logic, it’s cute), even songs.
My husband and I have worked to make our home a place of stories, starting when the kids were babies. Reading out loud has been an important part of this. We have been reading out loud to them since they were born. We read books before bed for years. Now, with school schedules and early mornings, we read before dinner and/or at the dinner table (after we eat, no food on my books please!). We tell stories all the time, about things we imagine, dreams we had, what happened in our days, etc. We play pretend with the kids – which is basically acting out stories. We watch movies together. We talk about the shows we watch (my kids will literally shout out “teamwork and friendship!” to their shows when they see the trope because we talk about it so much!). Anytime a story is being told, we jump into it.
I can now officially tell you that this has paid off. After seven and a half years of this, my son figured out just two weeks ago that books contain stories. More specifically, that the pictures don’t tell you the full story – but the words do. He just figured out that in order to understand the whole story (including the jokes, because of course he likes funny books best), he actually has to do the work of reading the words.
I didn’t tell him. My husband didn’t tell him. Even if we had given him the lecture about “you should really read the words, not just the pictures, because you’re missing the story”, he wouldn’t have listened, or believed us! (To be honest I did get halfway through this lecture, and stopped because I realized he had 100% tuned me out.)
If you have a struggling reader, this is the key, I think.
Keep reading to them. Keep engaging with stories. Keep things fun! Don’t avoid hard things, but don’t make them feel like they are on their own, like it’s this insurmountable task they have to do alone. Do it with them. Sit with them as they struggle through the words. Be their cheerleader. Celebrate any victory, even the small ones on the normal days. It’s a cumulative effect. They will figure it out. They will find the story that they love.
Kids are way more interested in what we adults find interesting, what we value, what we spend time doing with them.
Maybe I’ll have my husband do a post on how he encourages our kids in loving math!
What are you doing to encourage your kids in whatever they struggle in? Is there something you struggled in as a child? What encouraged you?
Update: I was looking up some books that might interest my son. He found me and joined me, and we researched some books. He got very excited about one in particular, and counted up his money to buy it. Just a few days ago it arrived in the mail! This is the first book he’s ordered for himself. So exciting!
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a bit drained these days. Turns out, even introverts need people!
My husband is home, and thankfully is still working. It’s a tricky situation in our little house, but we have found a sort of groove with it, and the kids have adapted. What has been the hardest is being home, inside, and away from family. It’s especially hard on my kids, which breaks my heart.
This new isn’t normal. This will change, but we don’t know when, and man can these days feel long. So, what do we do?
Fill up! and fill up with truth.
Here’s what I’m doing to help fill me up, and maybe it will inspire you to fill up too: (the first one daily, but the others are scattered throughout the week pretty much)
Bible – There is no way I, or you, or anyone on the planet who can make it through life, much less through stress, suffering, change, hurt, brokenness, without God’s Word. (I’m currently reading through Exodus, and seeing how God provided for his people is amazing, even through the law!)
Sufficient Hope: Meditations and Prayers for Moms by Christina Fox – Having a solid, bible central devotion has helped me immensely. This book is perfect because it’s relatively short, full of scripture, has questions at the end, and has a prayer written out at the end of each little chapter. The prayers are my favorite, because they are so solid, often praying the words of scripture, and give me words to pray when I’m out.
Friend-ish: Reclaiming Real Friendship in a Culture of Confusionby Kelly Needham – Maybe an odd choice for being secluded away from friends, but man has this time also revealed some of the idols that have crept up in my heart, especially in the area of friendship. This has been a very convicting, and comforting book always pointing to the truth.
Risen Motherhood Podcast – Hands down, my favorite podcast. No matter what, these ladies are always pointing to the truth of the gospel, from make up, to marriage, to parenting, and everything in between that falls into the realm of motherhood. Go listen. So good. The resources page on their website is also fantastic.
Journey Women Podcast – In the same idea and purpose as Risen Motherhood, but aimed at young(er) women. Topic and interviews to encourage and point women to God in our journey through life.
Foundations Podcast with Ruth and Troy Simons – This is centered on biblical parenting, and I have just started listening to this with my family (husband and kids).
Biblicaltraining.org – I’ve listened to a few good classes and seminars for free on this site. I love learning and this free resource is great for that. They also have some certificates you can earn (these are not free).
“Marks of a Healthy Church”, teaching series by Ligonier Ministries – This has been a balm to my soul, though I’m missing my church soooooo much right now, I’m enjoying this series about church. Ligonier Ministries also has a ton of other free teaching series, and other resources too.
Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones – This is what I have been reading to my children everyday at lunch time, and they remind me when I miss! They are into this routine of ours. Their little hearts are anxious and scared in this time too, recounting promises, hope, and truth of Jesus is just what they need now, and all the time! It helps Mommy’s heart too 🙂
There you have it! I’m also reading some fiction for book club, an audio book for fun, and have at least three more books I’ve started, and set down for now. Trying to be better about finishing what I begin. 🙂 What are you filling up with?
That title is not a tease, it’s true. I have thick, straight hair. My two girls, have (so far) thick, straight hair. Although one is a blondie and one a redhead, their hair is just like mine, and in the winter, that means knots and static. Endless knots and static!
All the blurry pictures… It’s like a requirement at this age 🙂
You’d think that me having my hair this way, I would have figured it out by now, I am 28 years old. Come on! But actually, I know all the problems with my hair, not really any solutions. I’m not a “do up my hair everyday” kind of person, honestly, I never even use my blow dryer. Air dry, brush, have a hair tie handy just in case, and done…
Now, curly hair, I got that in the bag. (I hope my youngest has curly hair, she’s still little enough that it could happen!) Odd, I know, but here’s why:
Yes, this is my sister. No, we don’t look much a like, but we are related, I promise. Oh, and my kids call her Tante (German for ‘aunt’), and it makes me so happy that they do!
This is my sister. I have spent hours doing her hair, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and we chat about her hair all the time (not mine, there’s nothing to say!).
Ok, I’ve got to give myself a little credit, I’ve learned a lot the past few years. Like the magic of a headband on an almost bald baby. What clips are good at keeping fly aways, well, away! What thickness of hair tie works for my girls, and since they are like me, we moved pasted the little tiny plastic kind a while ago.
Maybe it’s just general ineptitude I feel, as a parent in general? Any other parents feel that way? Like someone has placed you in charge of these little people to teach and train, but you feel like you are the very last person who should be in charge? I still need help! I still need my mom! But maybe that’s the point, for us to see we cant, that we do need help.
Something I have noticed about children is that they are instinctively creative. They like to do things like color, draw, paint, sing, dance, make messes, invent new tools or contraptions, and pretend millions of different world and games.
Why is that?
I think it’s because children don’t feel the pressure to impress, they just do what gives them joy.
My son builds machines, monsters, and robots with his Duplos for hours, simply because he likes to build and loves to show me what he makes. He just learned a new skill of drawing faces, and he loves to draw “silly” faces. Future comedian on our hands I’m telling you.
My middle daughter sings, and sings… and sings… and sings. There are very few moments of the day when she is not singing. She simply loves to do it. She also loves to play pretend with whatever is in her hands at any given moment. From pretending her grapes are those infamous monkeys jumping on the bed, to dancing her Moana doll across the coffee table. Her new favorite pretend game is pretending our couch is a ship, which is sinking and they must stop it! (She’s got a flair for the dramatic, for sure.)
Even the baby is in on the scheme. Play any song, and she’s bouncing to the beat in an instant. Sometimes she will even coo along with you if you sing to her.
Children do what they like to do. They do what brings them joy.
I’m not sure when, but somewhere along the way, adults lose this ability to just do creative things we love. Adults feel the need to qualify why we do anything to see whether it’s worth doing. On top of that, adults add an (often) unachievable standard of quality required for this creative endeavor to be worth our time.
When we add these qualifiers on to creativity, we limit what it can be and we belittle the one who made us creative.
First, creativity is expressed whenever something is made and there is enjoyment when making it. So, this would include things like writing, cooking, drawing, decorating, singing, playing an instrument, any visual art, dancing, and much, muuuuuch more.
Second is an element that I call a “shared experience”. What I mean is that thing is made and enjoyed, is also shared with someone else (whether they are a “fellow creative” or are an “audience”). Part of the joy in making is sharing. Experiencing art at a museum, a home cooked meal, a music recital, a “Pinterest-worthy” party, or a theatrical production are intended to connect people and for people to enjoy.
Now, we experience and do creative things imperfectly. When does a great artist know when he’s finished, or does it need one more dab of paint? Is a musician ever satisfied that their performance was excellent, or could this one portion have been played better? Did the audience respond as predicted in the play, or was there a disconnect? You see what I mean, it’s never perfect, but this is what leads me to my third point about creativity because it answers this question: Where does creativity come from?
Third is that creativity comes from God. Take a look a Genesis chapter 1 for a reference here. God created the universe. From whence there was nothing, God spoke, and everything came. This point, that creativity comes from God, also gives support and reason for my first two points. We know that God enjoys his creation, because he doesn’t need it! He was complete, the Trinity was perfect in relationship and love and purpose without us. He chose to make the universe anyway, and he made it intricate and beautiful. You don’t make things detailed and beautiful unless you like it.
More than that, God called it good. Now, this word doesn’t just mean well done, or wholesome, or the opposite of bad, it also means complete. When God spoke the universe into being he did it perfectly, completely, without leaving anything out on the very first attempt.
Of all the creatures and matter in the universe only humanity is created to be like God. This is why we are creative creatures, and why every human is creative, because we are all made in his image.
So, what do you do that is creative? How are you imaging your maker? It’s doesn’t have to be anything formal, or “crafty”, but think about it. What do you make that you enjoy making?