Happy Cheetah Reading

The Parable of the Bridge-Tunnel

To get to our vacation site, we had to cross the amazing Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel. I don’t remember traveling that way before, and we hit it for the first time as the sun was setting.

Three and a half miles long, there’s a bridge, then a (long) tunnel, then more bridge.

The children gasped with delight over the water, and gave little shrieks of mock terror when we entered the tunnel. “It’s like an action movie set!” was one comment.

And on the other side, more beautiful water stretching away.

We intentionally timed our return trip to avoid traffic snarls. While we were on the far side of the bridge, I’d read about this stretch of road. There are, sometimes, five hour (or longer) delays.

But even though we arrived at about 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon, not a peak traffic time, apparently there had been an accident, so we sat in slow-moving traffic for a half hour or so.

But even that felt almost fitting and right, that we could enter in — briefly — to the daily life of the locals. I expect they are both thankful to have a bridge and tunnel (and not rely on a ferry), while also often frustrated by the long delays.

As I think about that excursion now, I think about it in light of learning to read.

The trip out was like my older two sons’ experience of learning to read. No sense of concern, just sheer delight and excitement over the thrill of the new ground we were covering. The reading, like the bridge-tunnel, is beautiful and exciting.

Their experience matches that of the twenty percent of children who learn to read almost without being taught, and the experience of the other sixty percent who learn, no matter what method the teachers use.

Like our outward trip across the bridge, the majority of students move forward.

If you’re blessed with a swift journey, be grateful.

But then there’s our return trip. Some sense of trepidation — just how long will it take us to get through this slowing on the road? How frustrating and slow will be the road? How slow and frustrating the path to literacy?

This is the story of one in five students, the twenty percent who need remedial help.

It’s not rare.

If your child is not finding it simple to learn to read, you’re not alone.

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