March 02, 2004

interactive reading

Dan has been working extremely late the last couple of nights, just as he did last week. This means, among other things, that Im reading Damian his books at night; the bedtime ritual is normally something we split up but now Im doing all of it. (Who else is going to? The cats?) Last night I picked up Green Eggs and Ham. Its familiar and comforting and Seuss is always fun to read aloud. I love his cadences. Chapter books are great but sometimes what you really need is a good short picture book. A single gulp of story.

This time, just for grins, I had Damian read some words. Id say I will not eat them in a and wait for him to parse out box. Which hed do. There are some long diatribes in that book, the large guy ranting about how many places and with how many beings he will not ingest the green food. I let Damian read every single one of the places, objects, and animals. Box, fox, house, mouse, boat, goat, train, rain. Of course, he could easily have memorized it from the ten million and thirty times weve read the book. And there was one he got wrong: he said rain when it was actually dark. I asked him to take another look and then he correctly identified (ie: actually read) the word. After that, I know he started reading instead of remembering. And that was very cool.

Tonight he brought Click Clack Moo out from his room, wanted me to read that. He asked me what the subtitle said. I asked him to read it. "Cows" he got right away. "That" he didnt. "Type" he did. Yep. Hes reading. I didnt ask him to read much in that book, just various repetitions of Cows and Hens, Milk and Eggs. Then we read Froggy Goes to Bed, which is great for repetition. He read each flop flop flop with great relish, also the many iterations of FROGGGY! and Wha-a-a-t? Im realizing the most important part of getting him invested in reading is to make it rewarding in and of itself. After having been read to for so long, he can now participate in the process but without ever being on the spot. Im throwing him soft pitches, building his confidence.

But still. Hes really doing it. Reading words. And thats absolutely thrilling. Today he asked me to read him a sign. I asked him to read it to me. I pointed to the first word. No, he said. I assented, then read bicycle aloud (dont want to throw him in too deep too quickly) and then showed him the final word by covering the ing. He stared at it quietly. I didnt push. I also lowered my hand. A moment later, he said It says No bicycle parking. So pleased with himself.

Dont misunderstand me, Im not bragging here. Its normal to start reading around this age. I briefly thought he might learn to read at age three; a couple of professionals thought he could be hyperlexic, learn to read as he learned to talk. That wasnt the case, and I frankly dont care. Early reader, late reader, right on schedule. Whatever. As long as hes reading with relish, and for life.

Its such a miraculous thing, the process by which squiggly black lines on white paper turn into expressive words in a childs mind. Im watching it up close and still I dont know how it happens. Its like learning a foreign language, I think. For a long time you painfully parse out each carefully memorized bit of knowledge and then it starts to click and before you even know how it happened, youre thinking in Spanish. Right now he's still deciphering text, but I can see his delight in that. Words surround us: on signs, in books, on bits of paper, on the computer, even on TV and on toy boxes. It has to be a kind of victory when that all begins to turn from gibberish into sense.

Posted by Tamar at March 2, 2004 11:20 PM

This probably ranks up there as my absolute favorite part of parenting - watching them learn to read!
And you've got lots of happy milestones ahead of you - the first time you find him with a book open in front of him, puzzling out the words out loud. The first time he reads a book to himself and tells you what was in it. The first time he reads a book silently. The first time he reads a book for information that he can use (my son is a big fan of video game guides, lol!). The first time he actually begs for the next book in a series...
It's just one happy little surprise after another. :) In some ways, I think I'm enjoying my son's more usual rate of progress in reading even more than my dd's (which was very early and rapid). It's nice to have the pleasures doled out gradually, rather than receive them all at oncce.

Posted by: darby at March 3, 2004 06:26 AM

Oh, isn't it just divine. Watching them learn to read, especially when the love of words is something so ingrained in you, makes it all worth while.

Give him Hop on Pop. You'll be amazed at how much of that he'll be able to read on his own. It was Em's first "real" book, too. And if you want, I'll lend you the Bob books we have--it's fun for them sometimes to be able to pick up a "book" and read it cover to cover, even if it's only eight pages long and consists of "Cat sat on mat."

Just one thing to watch out for. Em was at first a reluctant reader, and I couldn't figure out why. She had the skill, she just didn't want to explore it. Finally, she told me why--she was afraid I'd stop reading to her, and she loves cuddling up with me and reading. Once I assured her I'd never want to stop reading to her, and proved it, she jumped into the process wholeheartedly.

Posted by: Tiny Coconut at March 3, 2004 11:24 AM

Darby, I look forward to all those mini-milestones. Just reading your list made me smile wide.

TC, I'd love to take you up on the book loan. And I'll dig up Hop on Pop too! And reassure him that we'll always read to him, I hadn't thought of that but it makes so much sense. I can just see Damian with the exact same thought process.

Posted by: Tamar at March 3, 2004 09:01 PM