Once a week I go to my kids’ school to help with reading. The younger years have parent-assisted reading groups, where you sit with a group of kids, help them read a book, and then work through some written questions and answers together.

Sounds sweet, huh? Can you just imagine all those little cuties learning to read? Struggling to get their tongues around those difficult to pronounce words, trying to differentiate between ‘were’ and ‘where’ and ‘there’ and ‘their’. Saying ‘th’ instead of ‘s’, and ‘w’ in place of ‘r’.

Adorable, right?

WRONG!

Seriously, after doing this for five years, I can honestly say there is nothing cute or adorable about it.

Don’t believe me? Well, let’s take yesterday’s experience as an example. I had a group of six 6 year olds sitting comfortably on the floor reading. Reading surprisingly well I might add. Until one boy sneezed. That’s all. Just one little sneeze. It didn’t affect him at all. He just continued reading out loud, oblivious to the fact that he now had a long (I’m talking the real six inches long), thick string of slimy, green snot hanging from his nose. And the little dear would have carried on reading quite happily had I not suggested he go find himself a tissue.

So, off he went, jumping to his feet in his eagerness. Unfortunately, the little dear left half the string of snot behind. Left it in a bubbly, slimy pool right at the feet of his adorable little friend. The same little friend who promptly turned green from the sight and began to gag.

So there I am. It’s not yet 9am. My morning coffee is still settling in my stomach, and instead of reading I’m dealing with a pile of snot, a group of squealing kids and one little boy about to throw up.

Adorable, huh?

But you know what? I have to do the early morning reading groups. Because the ones in the afternoon take place after lunch. After the kids have eaten. Now I don’t know what all those kids are given for school lunch, but have you ever heard the expression ‘what goes in, must come out’? It does come out. Trust me. About thirty minutes after lunch is finished. You know all those cute little tushies of theirs? Well, they’re not so cute when they’re spewing forth bursts of foul smelling air!!!

Ah, but it’s not just the physical aspects of reading group that are so endearing. It’s the children’s intelligence as well.

Don’t we all just know our own kids are smarter than Einstein? Each one a veritable little genius?

Newsflash, people. They are not! Seriously? These kids are thick as two bricks.

I know. I sound terrible. I should be banned from reading groups, never allowed to return. But let me throw another example your way.

The youngest kids are given a list of words they need to study over the year and learn by heart. They’re called sight words, basic words you and I wouldn’t think twice about, but I acknowledge, to a new reader they may be tricky. To aid in their learning process, instead of reading books, we hold up flash cards with one of the sight words printed on it. It’s the kids’ task to then identify the word. (Bear in mind, these are the same words they’ve been studying for months. And months. And months.)

So I hold up the first flashcard. It has the letters “T H E” written on it. That’s all. Just three simple letters.

While the rest of the group stares blankly at the card, dear little Jonny takes one look at it, his chest swells with excitement, his eyes pop open, and his hand shoots up into the air. “I know it, I know it,” he cries with joy.

“All right then, little Jonny,” I say, delighted at least one of the kids recognizes it. “Tell me. What is the word?”

Little Jonny is so thrilled to be asked he’s shaking. He can’t get the words out fast enough.  “It’s… It’s… It’s dining room!”

Cue in my patient smile and understanding nod of the head, accompanied by the words. “Almost. Why not try again?”

Comprehension dawns on little Jonny’s sweet face. He knows he’s made a mistake. But that’s okay, because now little Katie has her hand up, and she definitely knows the correct answer.

“It’s not dining room,” she explains patiently to little Jonny. “It’s television!

Ah, yes. Bless their little hearts.

Five years I’ve been doing this, people. Five years!

Hmm, maybe, just maybe, even with all the snot, vomit, smells and ridiculous answers taken into account, I do find them just the teensiest tiniest little bit cute after all…

Jess

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