In our unschooling journey, my view of reading has evolved. I have always been a book lover. I remember waiting anxiously for the next book-of-the-month club arrival in the mail when I was about 10 years old. I used to peruse my grandmother's bookshelves everytime I visited and couldn't wait to see what new books she might have. Even now, I have to keep myself in check from spending too much money in bookstores. So naturally, I wanted to share that love of books and reading with my children.
In our first year of homeschooling (we weren't unschooling, yet), I told my then 10 year old son that I wanted him to always have a book that he was reading. He could choose whatever he wanted, and take as long as he wanted for each book, but I wanted him to keep reading. In one year he read 20 books! I was amazed, and so was he. He stated that he actually liked reading. However, after that, I no longer required him to read books, and I don't think he's read one in it's entirety since.
What has happened though, is that I learned that reading isn't THE key to learning, and reading from books isn't the only reading that counts. My son has learned so much in the last 5 years that it tires me to even think about trying to summarize it. He and I both read on-line much more than in books now, as well as magazines, and manuals, and other practical guides.
Also in that first year of homeschooling, my 5 year old daughter learned to read. She learned what sounds each letter made, and then with us reading to her every night, and some Bob Books, she was well on her way. During this past year, she has REALLY enjoyed the Captain Underpants series by Dave Pilkey. In fact, she has read every book in the series 5 times! One day when she was home on the couch with a fever, she decided to see if she could read them all in that day. She did. I have soooo many other books waiting for her to discover. I was beginning to worry we would never move on. Yes, she loves books, but only the same ones over and over! But thankfully, we saw the new Nancy Drew movie a week or so ago, and when I mentioned that they have a whole series of books about Nancy and her mysteries, my daughter was intrigued. I picked up a few at the library, and now she's read 5 books in the series already. Good-bye Captain Underpants, Hello Nancy Drew!
Now my 7 year old son is still figuring out how to read. He knows the letter sounds and knows lots of words by sight from the computer, video game play, and everyday life. He is also able to sound out some words and figure them out. But, because he has cousins the around the same age who are reading more already, the questions are starting to come. Like, "Is he showing any more interest in reading?" "How's he doing with the reading?" "Have you been working on reading with him?"
I am so grateful that I know better than to worry in response to such inquiries. I know my son. I know he is learning every day. I see it. I know the tool of reading will be in his tool belt as soon as he is ready to pick it up. It's not something I can just hand to him and say, "take it." The best part is as he's learning, he's having fun. He's able to try things out whenever he feels like it, stop when he feels like it, read whatever he wants, without any pressure at all. He has such a great sense of humor about it all too. If he sounds something out, and it sounds funny to him, he'll laugh and say it again and tell us all. That's the kind of mistake that would lead to correction and shame in a school setting. I hope my son keeps his sense of joy and humor intact when it comes to reading and all learning. As long as we unschool, I think that's entirely possible.