A Slow Learner


It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was helping Gemma-Rose learn to read. She’d choose a book and we’d sit side-by-side on the sofa and we’d enjoy the story together.

Actually, I don’t know if ‘enjoy’ is the right word. It was a very slow process. We hardly ever got to the end of a book. I’d think, “Will Gemma-Rose ever read fluently?” which was a very silly question because I’d already experienced six other learner readers. Of course, she’d learn to read… only in her time, not mine.

For some reason, our shared reading sessions came to an end. Perhaps we just got busy with other things. Maybe I subconsciously decided I couldn’t stand any more slow painful reading sessions. Or did I suddenly become a very patient mother, willing to allow her child to learn at her own pace?

So for a long time I read to Gemma-Rose, but she didn’t read much to me. Then one day…


“Mum, can I read you a story?”

I looked at the book in her hand. It wasn’t a picture book but a short chapter book. “That book may be a little difficult,” I replied. (I know, I know… I wasn’t exactly encouraging, was I?)

“I can read it,” insisted Gemma-Rose as she snuggled up next to me and opened the book at the beginning of the first chapter.

“‘Isn’t it a lovely day, Mum?’ Kirsty Tate said happily, as she gazed out of the car window at the blue sky and sunshine…” Gemma-Rose was off and she didn’t stop. I sat delighted and surprised as she read chapter after chapter to me.

“When did you learn to read?” I asked her and she just grinned and shrugged her shoulders as if reading was the most natural thing in the world to do.


On Friday, Gemma-Rose appeared with a huge stack of picture books. “I’ve chosen some books and I’m going to read all these to you.” Obviously she’d planned a special event for me. So she settled herself on the sofa and I climbed up on her lap (only joking) and my youngest daughter treated me to all those old favourites I hadn’t heard for some time. She read each one clearly and accurately, with lots of expression, in between lots of giggles. She was enjoying the tales too.

“Last time I heard these stories, I was reading them to you,” I pointed out. Yes, it wasn’t that long ago I was in the reader’s chair. It wasn’t that long ago I had to remind myself that Gemma-Rose would read when she was ready. Now she is in the reader’s chair and she took no longer to get to the fluent reading stage than any of my other learner readers.

So I have come to this conclusion: it was just as well I was too busy to worry about Gemma-Rose’s reading. I might have intervened and messed things up. Or was I not actually too busy? Could I be learning? Could I have actually trusted her to go at her own pace? Could I have finally got it right on my very last child? Sometimes it is me that is the slow learner.


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