Ben's reading skills really blossomed at the end of first grade--he went from one of the lowest reading groups to one of the higher (not highEST, but highER) ones in a matter of weeks. This is typical development for Ben--all progress for him comes as a series of leaps and plateaus. For example, when he learned to walk, he didn't do it progressively, a few steps and then a few more, until finally he stumbled toddler-like across the living room. That's how "normal" kids learn to walk. Ben,though, just waited until long after most kids start walking, and then he got up and ran away without any warning at all. He didn't learn to talk by verbalizing first a few words, and then simple sentences, and finally more complex language. He just waited until we were sure that he would only say "Bah, bah, bah!" for his entire life, and then he spoke in full sentences. Not necessarily comprehensible sentences (hence the speech therapy), but grammatically correct sentences all the same. Just like that. It's been the same for all developmental milestones thus far. So I did not worry when Ben could not read at the beginning of first grade, and I was not worried when he seemed to make no progress throughout the year, because I knew that it was coming. And sure enough, sometime in March or April, he just started to read.
But reading has brought with it some unexpected changes in Ben's personality. Because, now he can read the rules--and rules are a very important part of Ben's life. For example, we went to the public pool a few weeks ago and Ben immediately spotted the "Pool Rules" sign hanging from the locker room wall. He read it from top to bottom, and then he turned to observe the application of the rules around the pool. Not surprisingly, several violations were in progress. Ben became upset quite quickly. He demanded, "Mom, WHY is that kid running? The rules say, 'No running.' But that kid is running. Why is he running?" I tried to explain that not everyone reads and follows the rules, but Ben spent the rest of our time at the pool pointing out running children, until he became sufficiently aggravated that we had to head home. We've returned to the pool a couple times since then, and each time Ben is careful to point out the rule-breakers to me. All of them.
Reading has its perks, though, too. For example, Chris (my dh) created signs for all Ben's dresser drawers, and now Ben is able to put away his laundry in separate drawers instead of shoving all garments into a single drawer. I can create chore lists, and menus, and Ben derives a significant sense of control by knowing the established expectations. But I wonder how this school year, which begins in just two weeks, will be different for Ben now that he can read the rules of his environment. I think it could go one of two ways: either he will feel safe and comfortable, or he will feel continually irritated as those around him violate the sacrosanct class rules. Time will tell.