26 April 2013

@ the Italian primary school :: 15 :: But what about her reading?

Young One is celebrating Literature Week at her school, with author visits, book exchanges, a reading flash mob, and finally a party Friday to conclude the activities. This has me reflecting a bit on her reading experiences...

There are a series of questions that I receive over and again from people (mostly American) upon their discovery that my little American girl attends Italian elementary school when she could indeed attend an American school here. They've become fairly predictable by now, and while they are generally questions based in honest curiosty, I do occasionally feel a hint of judgment in some of them.
"What about her reading? Aren't you worried that she will fall behind?!" (Insert: How will she ever be admitted to college? Her opportunities will be limited! Her life will be ruined!)

Last week I had her take a reading assessment that is used in the American system, an assessment that I do not endorse wholeheartedly, but one of the many standardized tests that she would be subjected to if she were enrolled in the American school.

The kid performed surprisingly well.

She has not had a day of formal reading instruction in the English language. She scored on the high range of her grade level.

I know that one test cannot accurately assess reading ability! I know. I know. I know. I could write a thesis, but this is blog post...most people have likely already stopped reading it. And did I mention that I don't like this particular test? Actually, it's not the test I despise as much as the way the results are often interpreted and used.  However...

In answer to "But what about her reading? Won't she fall behind? Aren't you worried?"
The child is thriving, in two languages. The possibilites are limitless.  My biggest worry has been that up until early this school year she hadn't expressed a love of reading in any language.

Now I have the much-coveted test data to confirm what I've suspected all along: literacy is literacy. Everything's gonna be all right, y'all. (Sigh.) And, finally, a little girl who is crazy for books!

Let's not even get started about the math.
2 things:

1.Yes, I know a bit about reading instruction and children's literature, and I have access to friends who are fabulous elementary school teachers. They've guided me. Yes, I have worked informally with her with reading in English since she was born.  Letters, Words, Sounds, Books. Yes, my husband does it, too. No, I have not used a prescribed program of any sort. And finally, it's the poor writing (spelling, really) that causes a bit of concern.
2. Disclaimer: I hate generalizations. This is my limited experience at my third grader's tiny primary school lost in Northern Italy. If you have a different experience with this, please share!


  1. Ugh...the Lexile stuff gets me riled up, too. Sounds like you have a solid reader on your hands and a bi-lingual one, too. Amazing. Ignore the questions with hidden judgements and agendas...your girl is going to have amazing fodder for college essays whether she chooses to apply in English or Italian. And thank goodness for spell check...that's Noah's biggest challenge, too.

    Speaking of literature: I just finished reading Nanny Piggins with Camille and we both had fun with it. If you are looking for a silly read, it's an entertaining one.

  2. THanks for the encouragement, Lucia. I'm fairly confident in our choices but I am always a bit surprised by some of the opposition to this choice. I believe people fear what they don't know & though many think they know a lot about this, the reality is that they base their judgements hunches. I just want to scream, "Open your little mind! The world is soooo big!"

    THanks also for the book suggestion.

  3. What grade is she in?
    My thought (coming from a mom who has home schooled American, English speaking kids, and not a teacher is twofold:
    *You know best
    *Give her English novels she will love, maybe try Rick Riordan - my kids love him. Or if she is younger than 11, Shel Silverstein poems. Or any books you enjoyed reading as a kid.

  4. HI Dana, I'm Italian and live in England. My kids speak Italian but don't read it... even though I've always read to them in both languages when they were younger. One of them only reads computer magazines and factual books. The other one only reads harry potter. The third one loves reading (yay!) but only in English...

    The fact is they are virtually bilingual anyway and should they wish to pursue one language over the other one in the future it will be easy for them. Thinks how brilliant their brain is!!

    (And always do what YOU think it's best!!)

    1. Monica,

      They have all been given a lovely gift, haven't they? I do like much about it, but I think the fact that it broadens choices in life is what makes me happiest.