Last year, in passing, Hayden mentioned the “100s Club”. It recognizes students who earn 100+ points for reading books and passing reading comprehension quizzes. As a third grader, Hayden wanted to earn a spot in the group. I contacted a few people to find out a bit more and I was told that it’s very difficult for students to make it to the 100s club and that since very few students achieve that goal, it really might be best not to pursue it. Because last year was a year of struggle and Hayden was already feeling fairly vulnerable I let it go and so did Hayden. Hayden finished out her 3rd grade year having scored just 14 points.
This year Hayden decided to go for it. She set a goal for herself and every month we tracked her progress, both in terms of books she read independently and books we read together at bedtime. By March it was clear that reaching the 100’s Club was going to be a challenge. Most of the books she was reading on her own were only worth a few points and they took a long time for her to read. But, she soldiered on. Then, in early May I watched something change for her. She started to come home talking about books she was reading independently at school, books that her friends were reading too and recommending. Her friends are all readers and they would recommend and share books regularly. But, those books had always been far above Hayden’s independent reading level and it was a source of frustration for her. But, now she was chatting with friends about the latest Lemonade War book and making suggestions based on her own reading.
That “thing”, that “flipping of the switch” that her reading specialists have talked about for the past year is starting to happen. She is reading grade level books independently, understanding them and seeking out new titles. My girl is a reader. She has always liked reading, but now reading is starting to like her back.
On Wednesday Hayden was welcomed into the 100s Club, having scored 120+ points. Pizza and cupcakes were served and all of the readers got to gather together to celebrate their accomplishment. For many of those kids reading is as natural as breathing and I’m sure for some of them the 100s Club is an opportunity to have a party and a picture in the yearbook for something they would be doing anyway. For Hayden it represents a milestone. Now, to be fair, around 50 of those 100 points came from Harry Potter books that we read together night after night for months on end, but that leaves 50 points that she earned through reading on her own, in school and outside of our regular bedtime routine. This is something that she simply could not have done a year ago. Honestly, I don’t think she could have done it six months ago.
It’s not just the increase in reading fluency to be celebrated though.
The 4th graders are reading Out of My Mind right now; a book about a girl with a significant, life-altering disability. The class was talking about disabilities and the teacher invited them to share information about various disabilities that they know about. Hayden told me that she raised her hand and she told the class that she has a disability called dyslexia. She went on to explain what that is and how it impacts her.
That afternoon when she told me about the discussion I asked her how she felt about sharing that information (this, coming from a 40 something who still hides her own challenges from most people). She said it felt good to be able to put a name on it and explain it to people. She told me that the topic of her last “Passion Project” of the year will be dyslexia, because she wants to understand it better and share that information with her classmates and teachers so that they can understand it too.
I love that she can finally put a name to this challenge she’s been facing for so long, and I love that rather than feeling limited by it she feels empowered to find ways to overcome some of the roadblocks she’s been facing. It’s not an easy road, to be sure, and all summer she and her sister will spend 16 hours a week working with specialists to keep gaining ground, but it’s paying off and she knows it. It’s not a journey I ever expected to be on, but I’m so inspired by both of my girls as they navigate the challenges they face; I can only imagine what the future holds.