Earlier this month I wrote about a gift that I had received that meant a lot to me as part of the fallblogchallenge2010. However, this Christmas I may have given my most favorite gift of all.
My daughter, Courtney, is a third grade teacher and she has written quite eloquently about her own challenges as a young reader. As part of her blog entry about her life as a reader she told the story about how I tried to bribe her to read more in the second or third grade. The American Girl dolls were so popular and she REALLY wanted one, so I told her that if she would read the entire series about any one of the dolls that I would buy the doll for her. She chose Molly so I went right out and bought the series. I was so proud of myself- so smug, so sure that I had the perfect plan! I think Courtney really tried, but the books were just too tough for her. I brought it up again several times over the years- as the books gathered dust on her shelf. I'd catch her looking longingly at the books but to my knowledge, she never touched them again. They just stood there as a reminder of her failure.
As the years went by, Courtney continued to really work hard. She never gave up, although it seemed she had to work harder than most of her friends. By the time she got to college she had decent comprehension skills but it still took her much longer than her friends to complete reading assignments. By then, of course, she had developed lots of coping skills such as color coded note taking, summarizing at the end of each paragraph, making notes in red on yellow note cards, dictating important events into a tape recorder as she went and then playing it back when she finished and dozens of other "tried and true " techniques that she had developed that helped her study. Things really seemed to click for her as she went through her college years and, much to my surprise, she even went on to pursue a masters degree. About two yeas ago she actually came home and read a book that my husband had finished and recommended for PLEASURE! It had been a long, hard road, but I am so proud of how she persevered.
As I was choosing her present this year, I wrote her this letter.
When you were a youngster, I so wanted you to love reading... but you didn't! I tried EVERYTHING, including trying to bribe you with something you really, really wanted - an American Girl doll. I told you that if you would read the entire set of books, I would buy you the doll. I think you tired. You read about half of one book before you abandoned the series. Always good to my word, I never bought you that doll!
As the years have passed, you have worked so hard. You never gave up. With lots of determination you really have become a reader - even reading for pleasure! You have used what you learned during those difficult years to work with and understand your own struggling students and that insight will make you a better teacher for generations of children.
I just wanted to find a way to let you know how I feel. I hope this present will say to you how really proud I am and how much I have always loved who you are but especially who you have become. You are... and have always been... my most precious daughter. I love you.
Merry Christmas, Dearest One. May all your dreams come true. Mom
On Christmas Eve, I read the letter to her before she opened the present. At least I tried to read it - more tears than words... As she opened the doll, I hoped that it would become a symbol that she would proudly display in her classroom and use to tell her own story to children that struggle. It was such an intense moment for me... and for Courtney. Later that night, her boyfriend would ask her to be his wife, so I am sure this night will always remain as a magical Christmas for her. My part is small in comparison, but seems like all her dreams really are coming true...