Last night I made a difficult decision.
C brought home a Houghton Mifflin reader last night and was assigned a story to read. She also had math and spelling homework... The story was entitled "Garden Flower." First of all, the stories in these readers have very little in the way of reasonable plot content that would make sense to a first grader. (This is not our first encounter with one of these readers, and she has complained loudly to me about them.)
20 minutes and six or seven pages into the story, C was asking for help with every other word. I was having her spell them out so that I could encourage her to try to decode them--I'm unable to read print due to severe ROP. The words (in my opinion) were much too difficult for what should be expected. Cardboard? The line was, "Garden on a cardboard box." There was a picture of a box, and she was reading "garden on a cracker box," which seems a reasonable conclusion for an extremely bright child to draw when the word is not familiar at all.
By the end of 20 minutes, she was leaning way over the table and complaining of pain in her neck. It was getting dark outside, so I turned on the overhead light. She continued leaning over and complaining. I asked if she was having trouble seeing, and she said no but that she was not understanding the story. I asked how many pages were left. She started flipping ... and flipping ... and flipping... My mouth was hanging open by this time. Ten pages and we were already several pages in! I have a psych degree and a special ed minor. This is far over an acceptable frustration tolerance, imho! I had her put the book away and thought we would get back to it later. I let her watch a movie and she did her math and spelling without complaining while the movie was on.
After the movie was over, I fed her dinner and we got the book out again. She started reading... "This garden is ... I don't know this word: g-e-t-t-i-n-g..." I made her soung it out. She gave me a big smile: "Getting!" Good deal. "I don't know this word." The bottom lip is quivering and the tears are behind the eyes ... this kid never cries. The book is falling in her lap. "Spell it, honey." "H-e-a-v-i-e-r." I can't make her sound that out. We just did e-a-c-h a while ago when we had this book open. I gave her the word. We were sitting in my big recliner. She laid her head over on my shoulder. I told her to put the book away. She shoved it in her backpack and said, "I don't care if I miss recess! I'll just stare at it!" However, a few minutes later, she was riddled with anxiety and told me she was afraid of being in trouble.
I spoke to her mom later, and we took the book back out. C showed her where she had stopped. I had her get out her spelling list. It has words like on, box, and pie on it! How is she supposed to read "heavier?" Paging through the rest of the story, we found words like daffodils and geraniums! I started to wonder if these are things the parents are supposed to read to the child and here this little girl is trying to read these things by herself! If this is the case, then we need to come up with a solution that works for the evenings when C is at my house because I can't read these things to her and she certainly can't read them herself. If there are other reading options for her, she should know. I just couldn't see making her slog through those ten pages! I know kids are doing more advanced work than I did when I was in first grade and probably even than what my internship kids did ten years ago; but daffodils and geraniums???