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’ve been doing a lot recently. All of it has caused me to do one thing: think deeply.
I’ve been writing in a more creative way. Finished a manuscript for a novel, now working on my second novel, and have several short stories finished and some short stories in the works.
I’ve been reading a lot, and been keeping a reading list. As of today, I have read 14 books since January 1st, and am currently reading about 12 others. Audiobooks have helped me bulk up these numbers, and they totally count. If it counts as reading for my children when they are read aloud to, then it counts when I am read aloud to.
All this word consuming and creating has made me extremely thoughtful. I’ve read things I didn’t agree with, and things I didn’t think I agreed with until it was explained. I’ve read some horrific accounts, and some tellings of delightful tales.
The main thought that keeps running in and out and around my mind is this: Why?
Why did the author write this? Why is this considered “good” or “bad”? Why did I not enjoy this before? Why don’t more people read this? Why would someone do that (in the case of some non-fiction books)? Why don’t I like this? Why is this so hard to read? Why do others think this is so hard to read (because it’s really not)?
Why, why, why?
I don’t have answers for many of these, but that hasn’t stopped me from asking the questions, postulating answers, and then badgering my husband with his opinions (he was a philosophy major, and still is a philosopher at heart, so he doesn’t mind).
Why do you read what you read? What makes that genre or that author or that kind of story your favorite? What stops you from reading?
Looking over my booklist two types of books stick out to me as favorites: old books, and detective novels.
Old books (my definition): anything written by someone who has been dead for at least 50 years.
Detective novels: crime solving novels, usually involving a detective, private or official.
Why do I like these so much? I’m not sure, but I know that I do. I love history, so I suppose that is part of liking old books. I love learning about people and places. There is nothing more mysterious and full of things we don’t understand than the past. Old books, even fiction, open up a world that is, for the most part, foreign to us. I find this delightful. I think I like detective novels for the same reason. And, I like to feel smart, and solve clever puzzles, and feel a part of righting a wrong and doing justice, even if it’s fiction. There is something deeply human in detective novels. We see wrong and right very clearly on display. The fight for rightness, justice, meeting the tension of inadequacies, grey areas, and fallible good guys. Detective novels, and math, prove, in a way, the existence of objective truth. There is a reason why Agatha Christie is the best selling author of all time behind only the Bible and Shakespeare. We humans are drawn to truth, objective truth, goodness, and beauty. Books highlight this reality.
“The difference between nonfiction and fiction is that fiction must be absolutely believable.”
(possibly said by Mark Twain, but true regardless)
I wax poetic and digress into theology, philosophy, and pondering the gracious purpose of life. We have a title!
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?
To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! Selah
My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts- the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
It’s a weird time. People are afraid, acting in ways they never thought they would. Children are home, stuck inside for the most part, and driving their parents up the wall!
Yes, I chose to quote an entire Psalm, because right now, more than usual, context matters. David wrote this song of praise while running for his life, hiding in a cave. If you’re familiar with the story, this is the cave where Saul comes to, ahem, relieve himself, and David is hiding in the shadows close enough to be able to kill him. Saul had been pursuing David, to kill him. David, legally, had the right to defend himself, and his men, and strike first. What does he do instead? He sneaks up, while Saul is- um- yeah, and cuts off a piece of his clothing. Then, when Saul leaves the cave, David and his men emerge and show the cut piece of clothing, showing how close Saul had come to death, except for David choosing to show mercy towards Saul, and love to God.
Let’s be clear on a couple details here:
Saul was the man God had allowed to be king of Israel. Saul was the government David was called to submit to and obey. Saul was pursuing David, because God had anointed David to be king, taking his favor from Saul.
David did not pursue becoming king while Saul lived. He never raised up an army to take over the kingdom. Actually, David supported Saul, fought along side him, served him.
This context of the brokenness in David and Saul’s relationship, magnifies the dependence and strength of David and God’s relationship.
David relies on God. Why? Not because of who David is, not what David has done, not what David has refrained from doing, not what David will do, but because of who God is.
David’s situation is not the best, he’s hiding for his life in a cave. The situation of the world currently is not the best, many hundreds of thousands of people are effectively hiding for their lives in their homes (much better than a cave, but you get the point).
But God is… Merciful A Refuge in the Storm Most High (none is higher!) Fulfiller of Puposes and Promises Savior Just Steadfastly Loving and Faithful Exalted Glorious!
Because God is, We can be… Steadfast Joyful Noise Makers Awake and Alert Thankfulness Shouters Praise Singers Glory Heralds
This crazy time reminds me of this song (it’s just constantly playing in my head!)