Thursday, May 19, 2011
Reading - How We Learn It
When we started out as a new family, long before we actually became a homeschooling family, I knew I wanted to instill a love of books and stories in my children. I read to my children in utero, and when they arrived we read as much as possible and brought books along everywhere - to the beach, on picnics, to church for wiggly toddlers and basically any place where we might have a minute or two to sit and thumb through a few pages. I wanted them to hear stories that are rich in content and beautiful in language, so from the beginning we read classics like Just So Stories, Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland, Charlotte's Web, The Wind in the Willows, and the Little House series. I looked for beautifully illustrated versions of Mother Goose and children's Fairy Tales. I remember staying up late with my then 6 year old D, night after night, unable to put down the Harry Potter books, even though he was already yawning. In the car we listened to books on CD - so, so many books on CD! We love absolutely anything narrated by Jim Dale. He is amazing!
When my children expressed an interest in learning to read, I tried to help them along, keeping it fun and lighthearted. We sang songs about the letter sounds. We played a lot of games. We used sandpaper letters and the moveable alphabet A LOT! My kids loved those. A good friend of mine showed my some old primers she used for teaching reading, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1957, called the Reading for Meaning series. These are 'whole language' primers and my kids have truly loved reading them. Having been written in the 1950's they provide lots of opportunites for historical/cultural teaching moments, such as "Yes, that mommy does look beautiful baking cookies in high heels and red lipstick, but your mommy prefers to kick it in sweat pants" and "nowadays some mommies go to work too!" I supplement with MCP's phonic readers as well so that they have some phonics learning as well. D started decoding words at about 5, but really loathed reading what he called 'baby books'. I encouraged him to sit with me and read a little bit each day, but eventually he decided that he wanted to do it on his own. I was a bit skeptical, but he took some books upstairs to his room (where I was sure he was jumping on the bed and building with LEGOS) and in a few months was a fully fluent reader! I have no idea how it happened, but it did, and I can honestly say I had very little to do with it. He was about 8 when he began reading chapter books.
From the time she was very little, J has wanted to learn to read. When she was a toddler she would sit with us on the couch for story after story, as long as we would sit with her. K, however, is a wiggler and has gone through times when it was very difficult to get her to sit and listen to a story. So I told stories while she played with play dough or while she snuggled in bed. Now she asks for the Three Little Pigs every night and loves acting out the voice of the wolf (done in Jersey-shore/Cake boss type accent). J is six now and just read her first chapter book - a Magic Tree House book! She is very, very proud of this accomplishment and I am very proud of her too.