My seven year old can read books for thirteen year olds and understand what she is reading. She has good fluency even while reading books for eleven year olds. Her vocabulary is that of a 16 or 17 year old according to testing we've just done. She is an incredible reader!

All of a sudden, she is shy about reading out loud during family reading time, because she is worried about not reading quickly and smoothly. We are re-reading The Hobbit at the moment and she reads it almost as well as her Dad.

We had a conversation about how fluency comes from practice and how even the best adult readers will have pauses occasionally when they weren't intendended when reading something out loud for the first time - especially when what they are reading has complex sentence structures and new vocabulary (and especially when the reader is trying to do voices and such - which she likes to do. She's got an awesome Standard British accent - according to a couple of Brits I know and her director).

This conversation helped her a lot and she is willing to read to me, but is still shy about reading with all of us or to others outside the family.

Admittedly, there are times, when her father gets a bit impatient - he has a hard time listening to others reading to begin with as he has adult ADD and looses focus easily. What can I do to help my daughter regain her confidence as well as help my husband understand why it is important to maintain his patience when she does run into a new word or trips up a little?

Just an update:

Between a combination of talking to Alice about her Dad's idosyncracies and speaking with her Dad about finding more patience for longer and why that was so important for his daughter, we have worked through matters on this front and she is back to herself again and reading like a fiend. Actually, now we have the new problem of helping her have more patience with her Dad's reading of Shakespeare. By continuing to practice and not worry about being "perfect" (and the fact that she can pick-apart her Dad's Elizabethan Accent and he is no longer seen as perfect either . . .). We've been able to move on - plus, the next book pick is his :-)

  • I wonder if reading aloud her own complex and nuanced stories would give her more confidence. Also, having the opportunity to practice passages on her own before reading in groups might make her feel more comfortable.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 20:08
  • @KitFox She has to be able to do cold reads for auditions too (if and when she continues with her acting) so while they are good ideas to incorporate to build confidence, definitely not a complete solution. Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 0:03

3 Answers 3


Perhaps it would help to draw a distinction between reading aloud to inform (clearly and pleasantly, so that others can understand) and reading aloud to entertain (to keep others in stitches, or at the edge of their seats), and to say that your daughter is very good at the first, but at the second, she isn't, yet.

Reading aloud to entertain is something of an art, and requires a lot of life experience (though it can be second-hand, via movies or television). Reading aloud well enough that another adult would prefer to listen, instead of reading the book themselves, requires more than "fluency and expression" (the qualities teachers are looking for). Besides the normal adult experience of human emotions, reactions, and accents, one also needs... drama, a sense of timing, attitude. It does not always require reading quickly; you need to know when to slow down, or even draw out a pause. If a reader has these things, it doesn't matter if she stumbles over words occasionally, or has to go back once in a while to reread something with a better choice of emotion/pauses/tone of voice; her listener is so wrapped up in the story he doesn't care.

I would be very surprised if your daughter reads at that level; most adults I know do not, though they can generally keep their children entertained. It sounds like she reads well enough to keep you entertained; but you are her mother, and do not have ADD. I'm guessing that in the past either her amazing precociousness (they're so cute when they're small, aren't they?) was enough to hold your husband's attention, or perhaps he was bored then, too, but she didn't notice. Whatever...

If your daughter has gotten old enough to notice and care about boring her audience, I'd say you can applaud this milestone in maturity. Seriously. Young children are self-centered and oblivious; adults -- or those adults we enjoy being with -- are more sensitive. So don't work too hard on trying to get your husband to listen with a convincing air of raptness; it seems your daughter is old enough to not be patronized. Instead, take the focus off ability and put it on learning.

I would suggest you tell her she's very good at casual reading aloud; now you guys want to step it up and try to become awesome story readers. Make the family read-aloud time a fun practice time to improve everyone's read aloud skills. (Find new and interesting books, to help your husband not be bored.) She can try out new tricks -- odd pauses, funny voices, scary whispers -- to see what works on her audience. All of you can be doing this. Make mistakes. Show her no one is expected to be perfect, but to have fun.

Good luck!

  • Just to clarify, it isn't that my husband isn't "rapt" with engagement, it is that he'll get impatient and take the book and say, "my turn" because he just can't listen to it and find the patience in himself (he does it to me sometimes when the family book is a fantasy book because fantasy just isn't his favorite thing anyway. He doeds it even though I do use dynamics in my reading (and so does Alice to a small extent) and also rarely trip over words). I understand your larger point though and it is a good one. Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 13:47
  • 1
    Understood. Then... it sounds like this part of the solution can be boiled down to down to either finding books that prevent your husband from becoming impatient (Tolkien would not be my first choice here; I'd find something with lots more dialog), or convincing your daughter that his boredom/impatience is his problem, not hers. Or both. Yes? Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 15:20
  • Probably both - we take turns choosing the book we read as a family. Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 20:47

It is not unusual for a smart child to want to stay inside their comfort zone. One of the big traps of success is that it can lead a smart child to a fear of failure. This would be especially true of public failure, such as reading out loud.

The advice I've seem most often in response to this is to encourage the effort, not the result. We've pushed the line that failure is fine as that is how you build experiences to learn from - that is the whole point of school (and life). Hitting a word you don't know is great since it's a chance to learn something new.

I have applied this to my daughter and it seems to have helped her put in effort in areas where success is not guaranteed for her.

  • I absolutely agree with this sentiment! We talk about how many substances had to be tried before the right substance for the light bulb filament was found, how many strikes Babe Ruth got for every home run . . . I probably just need to find a way to convince my husband of the attitude consistently. Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 6:15

One possible problem that my kids had: they read everything. My youngest has read New Scientist at the breakfast table for years. That's left her with a large vocabulary of words she knows but has never heard or said. It's kind of funny from time to time. I don't think there's much of a prevention for this when I child reads above her age. Read with her, correct her in a gentle way, laugh together at every opportunity.

We read The Hobbit together, alternating pages. That was a challenge for both of us, what with the voices, the Nordic names, etc.

  • Absolutely! Cacophony becomes kah-kah-fanny and epitome ep-i-toe-m. The great thing is I can relate because I made similar mistakes as a kid too. Her dad just had to learn to "back off" a little and be patient with these things since, you are right, it is a part of having an advanced reader. Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 17:46

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