Friday, February 09, 2007

Raising a Reader

My dd will tell you -- any random you-- that she can't read. It's embarassing, if I want to be honest about it, because she's whipsmart in every other way. Her spoken vocabulary is amazing and certainly, she's adept at conversation on a very mature level. So when she says to someone "I can't read or write," which she sometimes does, it mortifies me.

In my opinion, she can read and write. Most of the blog readers have seen her writing, both forming the letters on the page and generating stories. She does read as well, but she does not have a good written vocabulary. Explaining this to her in kiddie terms is becoming increasingly more frustrating, because it is a distinction she seems to wholly reject..

"You can read, you just need to learn more words," I tell her.

"I can't read. Bailee can read books, I can't read books, because I don't know what those words are." she replies, agitated and stubborn in her fear that maybe she can't get it.

'Honey," I say, writing a note, "What does this say?"

Giggle. "Candy is yummy!"

"That's right. What did you write here?"

Big smile. "Happy Birthday Daddy!"

"What is reading?" I ask her then, feigning utmost confusion about the matter.

"Well," she explains, "It's where you see words and know what they mean."

"So did you read my note?"

"Yes! But I can't read"

and on and on.....

So yesterday, we did a word building exercise, South Sound style. Together, G and I cut up two issues of a magazine featuring the lifestyle of our area, so that the images we retrieved were sure to include icons the kids know intimately. We made cards with the pictures (a la Montessori) and the printed name for the item in the picture. Some were straightforward: Mt. Rainier, Apples, Grapes. Some were funny to her: Panties, Messy Room. It was fun for both of us to work together on a little project like that.

Then we took those cards and made silly sentences with them, using our existing word building cards from k12. G liked this exercise for a while but burned out when she'd get to k12 cards she didn't know; it had been about an hour and a half on the whole project by that point. When she's no longer willing to sound words out, I know it's time to stop.

I feel like I am no longer teaching her how to read, so much as I am teaching her to accept that she can. She's by no means proficient at it, but she does know many words by sight and can usually sound out the rest of them. The next leap of faith on her part-- the synthesis of sounds into actual words, and then the comprehension -- that is all that is required.


  1. What a brilliant idea!!! I might steal it from you, because Eth can read but refuses to admit he can and this might give him more confidence.

  2. I think kids learn at different levels. She isn't in the typical school environment that usually SHOVES words and reading into their lives. I totally disagree with the way they tried to teach L to read in school. There was no phonetics and sounding out of words, it was all just by sight. Some kids can't learn that way, and if I hadn't stepped in, she wouldn't have learned to read and she'd be far behind the rest.

    It's all in the way they learn, and I think you're doing an excellent job of teaching your children. You know their individual needs. G will soon come around and from what I know of her, she'll have NO trouble at all.