Saturday, December 03, 2005

Learning To Read

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I've been an avid reader my entire life. Books were really my friends from a young age. I spent hours in the public library, hours in the school library, hours in my room reading. My parents tried to convince me many times to join them in front of the TV for a family-oriented show, but I often declined, in favor of my books.

I guess my love of books and language carried me through to getting a degree in English literature and going on to take a course in publishing and pursuing a job in the field.

One would think I'd have passed that love of reading on to my children. Yes, when they were very young, I read a lot to them, snuggling with them in the rocker in the nursery, and later bundled up with them under the covers of their beds. But somewhere along the way, schedules got busy and my reading to them got less and less. Instead I'd make up stories instead, which they enjoy immensely, but it is not easy to make up captivating stories on the spur of the moment.

My oldest son got into reading in the past few years-- he developed into a great fan of Harry Potter, GooseBumps, Magic Tree House series, etc. My daughter on the other hand is somewhat of a reluctant reader, saying, "This is so annoying!" but thank G-d in the past year, she's slowly coming to like books and doesn't need to be directed to read, she does it on her own.

This leaves us with child #3. He started school in September and is doing some phonics program to learn the sounds that letters make. Now, I know from my other two kids' year in SK that there were some "gifted" children in SK who could already read. My children only began toward the end of the school year to blend sounds and letters and begin to read...which was what was expected at their school.

Lately, I decided that it's time I get back into the reading mode with my children, especially my youngest. Time to sit with him and teach him sound blends. I bought him a series of phonics SCOOBY-DOO books from Scholastic Books and decided we'll start with those.

Any of you parents out there will have experienced "firsts" with your children; what's odd is that we parents take these "firsts" for granted, ie. we don't remember learning how to walk, because we just do it; we don't remember learning how to dress ourselves, because we just do it, and we don't remember learning to read because we just do it. I am fascinated when I watch my children learn and adapt new skills into their lives, watching as their confidence in "performing these tricks" gets bolder and becomes something natural to them.

As we take our children through early days of learning to read, we are aware of just how difficult this skill really is. That is why literacy centers are popping up all over the country; reading isn't natural, it's a learned skill.

Well, several times this past week, I sat and cozied up to my little guy, with Scooby Doo readers in hand. Little guy was most eager as he sounded out the letters and blended them together, and even got upset when I offered up word sounds when he didn't get them himself. Today, however, I changed tactics. I put aside the Scooby Doo books in favor of early reader phonic books given to me by a friend whose children had used the books in the Montessori school system.

Okay, so the "stories" are lame: "Tim is a cat. The cat sits on a mat. His pal is Tom. Tom has a hat...." The stories are lame, but the level of word difficulty is appropriate with each set of books, and there are ten books per set. Today, my son "read" two books. It is hard work and I exercised patience, as did he. He was proud of his reading accomplishments, as was I.

Today it was Tom and Tim. Tomorrow perhaps, "Call me Ishmael..."


tuesdaywishes said...

Enjoy! My budding reader is at about the same stage. I read to her every day, and let her try to read the bits she wants to.I really believe that reading is developmental, meaning they'll do it when they are ready, like walking and talking. I've had a kid who taught himself at 4, one taught herself at 5, one I taught, one who didn't really get it until almost 7. We've had schools with phonics, schools with whole language, schools with multiple learning strategy system. As I say, when they are ready, the 'key turns in the lock' .

Helene said...

Hi Pearl! Love your blog! I missed out on the "teach your child to read" thing. She taught herself at age 2 - 3. Both her dad and I read to her every day/bedtime. And now that she's 18, we STILL read to her. She's a dawdler over meals. So rather than "stress out", I just read stories to her while she finishes breakfast and lunch. We're still into kiddie picture books and stories --- anything that can be read completely in one or two sittings. Both of us are addicted to this now. And believe it or not, this has helped my daughter become a wonderful professional storyteller.DO NOT STOP READING TO YOUR CHILDREN.
Be well.