Fiona began sounding out words at three, and at age 4 1/2 could read pretty much any word, or collection of words. But surprisingly her pleasure-reading didn't really take off as I'd expected. She was very close to becoming a fluent reader, and certainly wasn't sounding everything out any more, but she didn't seem interested in reading to herself.
We didn't discover her profound far-sightedness until she was 5 1/2. Her uncorrected vision at that point was 20/200, on the threshold of "legally blind." When she got her glasses last summer, she improved to 20/70 immediately, and 20/40 in her best eye by last fall. And that far-sightedness was obviously what was preventing her from truly becoming a reader. Late last fall (once she reached 20/40) things really started taking off. Now that she could decipher the smaller fonts she was happily reading to herself from easy chapter books like Magic Treehouse, Boxcar Children, The Littles and Catwings. She would bring books with her in the van, to rehearsals, to meetings, anywhere she'd need to amuse herself for a little while.
A few days ago I went to pick up a novel Erin was borrowing from a friend to use for her English 10 assignment. As I drove home Fiona, in her car seat in the back, apparently picked it up and read a few pages. When I noticed what she was doing I laughed and told her it was a Grade 10 book. "Really?" Fiona asked. "So I can read a Grade 10 book?" I guess so.
That night she told me she wanted to start reading novels, not "chapter books." She said she was finding her easy chapters books kind of boring and repetitive and asked me to help her look through the bookshelves for some proper children's novels about animals. She enthusiastically packed all the Beginning Reader Chapter books into the Donation Store box. We dug up Avi's Dimwood Forest Chronicles, William Steig's "Abel's Island," some Redwall, the first "Guardians of Ga'hoole" book and a few others. And she dived in, with great delight.
She now disappears for long stretches of the day, during which an eerie quiet descends on the household, and can be discovered cozied up in her bed-nook reading her way through whatever the latest book is. She has been totally thrilled (and surprised!) to discover what a strong reader she now is.