Monday, August 13, 2012

Raising Readers

I didn't mean to be away from the blog for so long. The new interface was driving me, and my computer, crazy. I was about ready to delete both blogs and start from scratch somewhere else, when I discovered I could go old-school and return to the original Blogger. It solved all my problems, so here I am again, ready to write.

Summer is winding down and can I admit that I'm looking forward to school starting in two weeks? I can say it, it's my blog. I crave structured days and hitting the books, along with cooler fall temperatures. It's been a hot one here in central Maine. I am anxious to get started on our all new curriculum, too.

Although our more formal schooling has been on hold for a few months, we haven't stopped reading. I created a 50 Days of Summer Reading challenge for the kids, complete with charts, stickers, and incentives, to do more reading in between the school months.

I discovered long ago that my children are very very different, but I still found myself surprised by their completely different paths to reading. Mister was a very natural reader, learning all the letters and their sounds in three weeks. I didn't know what the next step was. Someone gave me Happy Phonics which broke reading into seven easy steps. I found the step we were on (blending) and used one of the games that went with that step. Voila! He was reading. It was all so sudden, it didn't even feel magical. For Mister, it was more mechanical. He is a natural rule follower, and just does it.

The struggle with Mister is to get him to read books that are more challenging. He is always looking at books and scanning the pages. He brings a pile of picture books to breakfast. I have no doubt he is reading them, yet not completely. This scanning has carried over to his chapter book reading at times. If he sees a word he doesn't know, he skips over it. Sometimes the font size and line spacing intimidates him and turns him off from reading. Sometimes he is just being lazy.

Brown-Eyed Girl I would also describe as a good reader, yet she is not nearly as fluent as Mister was at this age. She has motivation in droves, wanting to read books that go far beyond her ability, and read them independently too! She dislikes having to read what I have picked out for her, because it is the appropriate level. She requires lots of repetition, doesn't naturally follow the rules (I'm not just talking phonics here), and is highly distractable. She often appears to be looking into space, dreaming, but will snap to attention and read a complete sentence. She was sent to help me with patience.

As I was planning this year's course of curriculum, I found I couldn't reuse some of Mister's books for B-E-G. He is doing excellent with the Rod and Staff English series, which is very traditional. I really like this curriculum, but I know it won't work for her. It requires more reading, even if we just do it orally. It would be an exercise in frustration. Mister breezes through Explode the Code books. Brown-Eyed-Girl reached a standstill after book 3, and hasn't retained the information from them. Even the books they have enjoyed reading are complete opposites. One of the first books I gave Mister to read was One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. He absolutely hated it because it was so silly. Brown-Eyed Girl is loving the Dr. Seuss books for reading.

None of this is said to compare my children in a negative fashion. They are so uniquely made and I am thankful that I'm able to cater to their individual learning styles here at home. I can gently push Mister to read more chapter books, with larger print and some illustrations. I can give B-E-G books with more repetition.

I recently got this treasury of Dick and Jane books at Goodwill. Brown-Eyed Girl had great success reading a small paperback story about Dick and Jane. The repetitive words and cute pictures drew her in. At first she was intimdated by the size of this book, but when she discovered she could read it all by herself. she was beaming with pride. The stories get progressively harder, and certainly don't fall into the "phonics camp", but this is working for her. I consider it a success.

I have no idea how Petite will learn to read. Of all three children, she is the most interested in books. She will listen to stories for hours, and long ones at that. She listens in to chapter book read alouds, although she is always tumbling around. I never realized how much she was paying attention until she started talking about some of the things I was reading about. I hope and pray she is a self-taught reader!

Learning to read is such a priviledge and such a gift. We have the power to learn anything if we can read. Some of the greatest authors, scientists, and world leaders in the world were educated on books alone. My hope as a teaching mom is to help my children become excellent and voracious readers, so they too can self-educate. There is no ideal age to teach a child to read. It is a matter of readiness and willingness. I have no problem encouraging the "willingness" with incentives sometimes! Each of the kids got to choose their goal reward for completing the 50 Days of Summer Reading challenge. Misterwould like to go to the waterslides with Daddy. Brown-Eyed Girl would like to go to "that big mall!" with Mommy and have a girls' day (we specified activities, not material prizes). They also will receive $1 for each book they have read to be spent on a new book(s) of choice. However, they don't know that yet. Surprises make raising readers lots of fun, too!

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