By Rachelle Sorenson-Cox

My kid doesn’t like to read. MY kid doesn’t like to read. This fact both confuses and concerns me. My mother taught me to read before I started Kindergarten. Since the time I could read, I would read. I was the kid who got in trouble for reading after bedtime. Now, I am mother to a kid who views reading as some form of institutionalized child abuse.
To make matters worse, my daughter is a rising 3rd grader in the North Carolina Public School System. Third grade is when things get real with EOG’s. End Of Grade Tests. The dreaded and omnipotent timed bubble sheet nemesis that hijacks classroom lesson plans (and educational creativity) from third to eighth grade. In addition educators say third grade is when students need to be able to navigate the shift from learning to read to reading to learn.
My kid struggles with the words; the comprehension is certainly not there. I know full well that reading trouble equates to school trouble. Not being able to read is the kiss of death. Dramatic I know, but I feel a real sense of panic about this. I watch my daughter struggle and it is rough. I’d rather take the bullet then watch her shrink at the sight of words with more than five letters. How is it that this strong eight-year-old girl can swim the butterfly stroke with grace and ease, but sheds tears and completely shuts down when faced with the word monarch?
Her other parent and I do our best to support and encourage her. To help address her reading deficiency, we enrolled her in the Summer Reading Camp at her school. She spent four weeks of Summer Break reading, playing reading games and doing reading activities. At the conclusion of week three, she was still testing at below grade level. So, they stepped things up and assigned her a tutor.  The effort was (and is) appreciated, but its execution had an unintended side effect.  Tutoring occurred simultaneously with recess. They gave her tutoring and took away moving. My daughter likes math, but this math did not add up. Rather, it validated her feelings that reading is a legal form of school torture. It also took away her opportunity to be in her school happy place, the playground.
Whereas my daughter may have a lack of academic confidence, she possesses a strong sense of her physical self . She is fast and strong and knows it. I am proud of her ability to run and jump and even do pull ups, but I want her to keep in mind that she is a student athlete and must also exercise her brain. I see her give up when reading, yet she will run the race to the end. I cannot support that, she is too smart to be a dumb jock.

Lately I have started to wonder if we should have her tested. Maybe she is dealing with a learning challenge or disability that we are overlooking because our egos won’t let us consider that she is anything less than practically perfect.
While I am not sure how to ignite my daughter’s reading light, I know that it must be done. Because we are a family of jocks, maybe we should stop fighting nature and attack EOG’s more like an athletic event. Assemble a team (parents, teacher, tutor) with a common goal, a willingness to shed sweat and tears (maybe some blood) during training and the most points possible at the end of the game. Because, it is a game, a game of jumping through hoops.

Although it is not entirely true that prison funding is based on EOG reading scores, it is not entirely untrue either.  Study after Study shows that poor reading skills are a predictor for legal trouble. The stakes are high in this game.
This week marks the beginning of the school year. I look forward to the opportunity to meet others on team “GL” (Grade Level) and get started. First order of business, establish a “practice” time that does not conflict with free movement time.

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