When A Sassy Remark Shows Me a Sure Thing

 By Allison Salerno

"Mom. Stop blaring your music. I'm trying to read." 

So said our 11-year-old yesterday as he lay on the comfy blue couch, reading, and I sat in the nearby armchair, listening on my macbook to my new favorite music: Iron and Wine. His sassy comment was its own kind of music.

If you know our son in real life, you know what a triumph this comment is. You see, our son struggles with a language-based learning disability. When he was four, his speech was unintelligible, even to me, his stay-at-home mom. The only person in the world who could understand L. was his older brother, who for years served as a translator for him to the rest of the world.

This challenge has not been easy for him. He knows his older brother taught himself to read at age two in the back of the car.  Both my husband and I are former journalists and have always earned our living writing or teaching writing. Books lie in every room of our house; our bedroom closet is filled with books we can find no other place for.

When the public school wouldn't pay for speech therapy ("He's too strong in every other area") L. spent a year with the "magic word lady" who taught him how to speak and taught me how to help him. Later, his small private school offered him four years of speech therapy. Speaking was tough. Reading was tougher.

In first grade, when he still could not make letters form into words, his teacher gently suggested he needed some help. It seems he had taken to hiding under tables during reading time. This tiny private school spent the next four years working with our son day after day after day, one on one (using the Wilson Reading Method) to teach him to read.

The clearest example I can give of the kind of grit our son has happened on our town's sledding hill. He was about eight and the hill was icy, so icy nearly every other kid stopped sledding, even the teens. The hill didn't stop him though. The ice made the hill too hard to walk up. So he crawled.

As we did with our older son, my husband and I have read and read and read to L. We have spent hours sharing with our boys the joys of Mark Twain, J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis, Laura Ingalls Wilder and so many others. We've shared hours, days probably, reading together, taking turns on chapter books, letting him rest when he tired by taking extra turns.

Yesterday at Barnes & Noble, L. spied a new book series his middle school buddies have been talking about: The 39 Clues. The first book is called "The Maze of Bones" and written by Rick Riordan, one of his favorite writers. "When you are reading one of his books you just don't want to put it down," he told me.

L. read this book on the drive home, on the sofa, in the traffic jam today on our way to Home Depot and back on the couch this afternoon as he waited for his pals to come over for their ongoing Axis and Allies game.  He's almost done with "The Maze of Bones." He has a slew of books he wants to read this summer. If only I'd stop blaring the music.


  1. Oh too funny! My kids are always asking me to turn my music down! What a lovely boy you have..

  2. The new generation are putting us old timers in our place. ;)

    God bless him.


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