Just because they can read it doesn’t mean they can understand it. My daughter and Harry Potter were the same age when the series came out. She insisted that she could read that book, so I got it for her. And like a good mommy, I read it myself so I would know what we were feeding her mind. Then, we had family book talks while driving in the car, and many times we had to tell her, “That is not what that meant.” It did turn out to be a great vehicle for discussing prejudice because, even though we are all Muggles, we are also a mixed family.
That is not what that meant.
Despite my due diligence and our many discussions, a couple of years later my daughter was trying to explain to me how the Dursley family had treated Harry Potter kindly.
What? Are we talking about the same book?
Even though she could read the words, her limited life experiences colored her interpretations of the story events. Her little fourth grade mind had formulated an alternative understanding, which she still believed. And, she had a slew of arguments to defend her position:
- Bringing Harry along to the zoo with them was a generous gesture by the Dursleys.
- Dudley was kind to share the rest of his unwanted treat.
- And, of course, living under the stairs in that really cool room was an enviable privilege!
I was faced with a dilemma. Should I explain the truth to her, or leave it alone because it was so funny? (“Tell your aunt how the Dursleys treated Harry, honey.”) >giggle< In good conscience, I knew I had to tell her, “That is not what that meant,”
More Examples of Reading Ability Outdistancing Comprehension.
Example 2: One of my favorites is when she plopped down on the couch next to me, beaming. Reaching up, she began tapping on her eyelashes, obviously waiting for me to comment.
“What are you doing?” I asked, grinning back.
Her face fell at my lack of understanding. “Mom! I’m batting my eyelashes!”
Okaaay. That is not what that meant.
Example 3: How about the vocabulary that comes out of a young reader? On her ninth birthday, she announced, “Now that I’m almost a teenager—”
“Hold it!” I had to stop her right there. “You are not almost a teenager. I will tell you when you are almost a teenager.”
“But Mom, I’ll be an add dole lee sent at ten.” At least, that’s what she said. What she was trying to say was ‘I’ll be an adolescent at ten.’ (What in the world was she reading?) I now know never to make fun of a person who mispronounces words, because that means they are a true reader, but at the time I was rolling on the floor laughing. (It’s okay. She still turned out alright.)
Example 4: Don’t think this Reading versus Comprehension phenomenon is just about my brilliant child (objectively speaking, of course). A mother purchased my book, Fairly Certain, for her son, but her second grade daughter insisted she could read the book, too. The child flipped it open, and bless her heart, started correctly reading, and pronouncing, the words.
Chris snickered. “Sounds like a bumper sticker.”
The little girl looked up. “What does a bumper sticker sound like?”
I told you it wasn’t just my kid.
How about your kid?