Learning to Read

When I was a child, my parents read to us every night. I distinctly remember Richard Scarry books — anyone else remember those? — and putting my fingers on things, looking at the black marks beside them (refrigerator, stove, strawberries). Learning to recognize them.

We also watched Sesame Street and The Electric Company.

And, in the days before pre-k, or nursery school, or even daycare, that’s how I learned to read.

By the time I was 5, I was reading on my own, in my head at least. I don’t know how one “learns” to read, per se; I’ve heard tell of “contextual” learning, and of course, phonetics.

I can tell you, for much of my early childhood, I thought when you were very tired, you were fa-ta-goo’ed; and for the longest time “sat-is-fi-ca-tion” meant to be content. (As to the first, I read a lot — and I mean a lot — of Nancy Drew; that red-headed girl detective was always fatigued at one or more points in her adventures.)

And now, I read to my children every day. Whenever they want me to read them a book, I indulge them. I don’t adopt silly voices or act out the stories; that would make me feel too self-conscious. But I read with a lot of inflection and emotion (sometimes Kate asks me to tone it down; “Don’t say it like dat,” she pleads). I always read them a book before bedtime.

For months now, both my girls have taken books to bed with them. Kate will page through hers and narrate the action, usually starting, “Once upon a time…” I have come upstairs after putting them in bed to find Flora intently paging through whatever book she has with her. (Kate is usually passed out by the time I come back upstairs to check on them. That girl likes her sleep.)

For Christmas, we got Flora the LeapFrog Tag reading system.

She loves that thing. (And thanks to everyone who told me about the storage case. We’d have lost the ‘pen’ by now without it.) She recently took it to preschool for show-and-tell as her favorite Christmas gift.

Last night, Flora declared, “I can read Olivia. Look I’ll show you.” (Olivia is one of her Tag books.)

And she got it out and read it to me.

This is the first book that Flora has “read” to me (and Kate). She is very proud of herself (I’m a little proud, too). I know she is doing what Dan referred to as “sight reading”; there were words in the book that she forgot, and other times she asked me to help her. I’d like to start teaching her to sound out the words and letters. I’m treading a little lightly here because Flora becomes frustrated so very easily. And I don’t want her to become frustrated with reading — it’s so very magical.

I’m obviously taking a very low-key approach. I want reading to be a wonder, not a chore. I’m not the type of mom to crack out the flash cards (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Have you ever taught a child to read? What’s the best way to get Flora “really” reading, rather than “sight” reading?

I’m not really concerned about her ‘mispronouncing’ words at this point. I did that for years (reading aloud in class was always pretty interesting; thank goodness for very nice grade school teachers; I’ll never forget the first time I learned “satisfaction” only had four syllables), and I love to read. I want to instill in Kate and Flora the same love that I have for it.

I’m pretty sure we’re on our way there. But if there’s a nudge I can provide, I sure would like to know what it is. And if not, well, we’ll just keep on doing what we’re doing.


Updates: Through the efforts of many, many people, the women in charge of the BRESMA orphanage are getting aid, but there is plenty more you can do. Updates can always be found at Jane Pitt’s Twitter feed (she took her blog down for now; too much coming in, methinks). CNN did a story about the situation; as did local papers (Post-Gazette; Trib-Review). Thank you for all your support. I hope you keep these women and the children in your prayers.

Oh, and I gave $50 to the Red Cross this morning. THANK YOU!

3 thoughts on “Learning to Read

  1. I don’t think she’ll be sight reading for long though. She knows her letters and sang along with me when I did the “My name is B, and my sound it buh, buh, Baby, buh buh Book.” She and Kate got a kick out of that and kept suggesting letters and words. (The silver dollar pancakes didn’t hurt my rep with them either!)

    When I read to kids I always ask them about what’s going on in the story and on the page. It’s good to involve them, they’re not just being read to, they’re part of it.

    • I was going to say something about Flora’s reading comprehension (same with TV shows or movies). She can tell me about things now: who does what; what happens at the beginning/middle/end. It blows my mind. But since I’m “just” a mom (i.e. not an educator) I don’t know how to couch it. Kate can tell me about stories, too.

      Flora still can’t hear me call her name. She’s definitely got attention issues, but it seems to be more about when she is paying attention to one thing, she just shuts everything else out.

      I wonder who she takes after. *cough*Dan*cough*

      The silver dollar pancakes (and Mickey/Minnie Mouse pancakes) didn’t hurt your rep with ME. 🙂 I had them as leftovers with almond butter and strawberry jelly later in the week. Thanks! You rock!

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