We have a son who started kindergarten this year. He is very bright but is not motivated to read on his own. We have not pushed him because we know children learn at different rates. However, his 3-year-old sister is catching on to reading and her numbers very quickly. Her preschool teachers are amazed at how swiftly she is learning. Our son is starting to feel that he is a failure. We do not want him to develop poor self-esteem. What should we do? -- Desperate


Wow! You begin your letter by telling us how bright your kindergarten son is, but you never elaborate on what his strengths are. You also don't mention what he is expected to be learning about reading. Talk to his teacher and find out if your son is on the same level as most of his classmates in learning to read. Keep in mind that not all kindergartens are academic factories requiring students to be reading as soon as possible.

We would not expect your son to be reading on his own so very early in the school year. It would be more appropriate for you to read stories to him. His participation could consist of reading the few words he knows from time to time, telling you what may happen next and talking about the story. This is the best way to build his interest in learning to read.

Be careful not to emphasize what one child can do and what the other cannot. If you do this, you should not have to worry about your son's self-esteem. Have fun reading with both children, and both will become readers when they are ready to do so.