Anyone with a sibling knows all about sibling rivalry; it’s a natural struggle in homes and always has been. Children are so competitive with each other because they, just as adults, need something and someone to judge themselves against, a sort of mile-marker in life. With a sibling who’s always around, it’s natural to compare.
This makes it excessively difficult for parents who see children learning to read at different paces, especially children who are close in age. When one child so clearly outshines another in any area, we struggle to compensate for the child’s needs. In sports, we can recommend different activities or place our children on different teams. In areas like the arts, it’s often easy to just say, “that’s okay… clarinet isn’t your thing. Try the violin.” But when it comes to reading, something children do every day and a skill everyone needs in life, the struggles are more difficult.
Our older daughter is getting reading help at school, which she was fine with – until her younger sister started reading at a higher level than her. Now it bothers her. It’s so hard – they are really close in age, so the gap isn’t that big even if they were both on grade level. We’ve been encouraging them to read books together – or with us – so we can all read, and no one feels left out. I’m almost glad that the younger is struggling in math now – so at least there is something she finds hard so she can relate to her sister.Melissa Angert, Girlymama
It’s difficult to explain the differences to children when their abilities are so different. While it’s true that everyone will, eventually, learn to read, there’s no set program that will work for every child and no length of training time it will take for all children to “catch up” with another.
When our 2nd grader passed the 4th grader’s reading abilities, we had a lot of conversations about how everyone learns differently. It helped to point out the things that our 4th grader finds easy-like science. We also encouraged her to read more with her sister and, at times, had to remind our 2nd graders that pointing out their differences could cause hurt feelings.Kelly Whalen, The Centsible Life
Suggestions to help families work together when children read differently
Life is a balance
Make other things just as important as reading. Teach your children that we all excel differently at different things. Remind them that the world would be rather boring if everyone was good at only one thing, and so would your family! Teach them to appreciate their strengths.
Encourage your children to compare nicely. Teach them that while Mallory is great at reading, Simone is excellent at handwriting. Help them recognize other strengths and guide them to compliment each other.
Teach each other
Help your children to teach each other. Robby has an excellent tennis serve, and William always finishes his math quickly and timely. While working together, observing, and teaching, each child will become better at their own talents and learn from the strengths of their siblings.
Be careful how you refer to your children. Try not to call Joey “The Reader” or “My Reader,” as this assumes that Aaron will never be a reader.
Inspire a love of reading
Read with your children, all of them. Whether your child is an avid reader, a struggling reader, or a non-reader, read to him and encourage him to join in when he’s comfortable. There’s a difference between reading the words on a page and enjoying the words on a page. By helping your family to learn the difference, you’ll help inspire a love of reading.
Fun Games to Encourage Family Reading
A quick Amazon search shows oodles of opportunities to play family reading games, which definitely makes learning to read more fun. Here are some of our favorites.