Sunday, March 30, 2008

Teaching Erin to Read

Reading has been an adventure with Erin so far. This is a general run down of what we have done. I have read to her from day one - and I do mean day one. "It's Time For Bed" by Mem Fox was her first bedtime story when she was 6 hours old. And we have read almost every day since, several times a day most days. For the joy of it, for the snuggle time, for the conversation, for the quiet closeness and because it is a natural extension of our lives. She sees books spilling off our bedside tables, bookshelves overflowing with makeshift bookshelves made from cardboard boxes all around the house. She sees Beloved and I reading together and to each other. She sees reading as recreation, as fact finding, as worship as we partake of The Word together as a family. It sparks conversation - sometimes passionate - with her and around her. She has spent hours flipping through books on her own.

One day, she just started pointing out letters to me.

I don't know if it was the alphabet books or the educational programs or what. So I started telling her about letters. What their names are and what sound they make. We started talking about "what starts with 'S' Mummy?" and soon it became a few times a day we'd have those conversations as she hounded me to let her in on this secret of reading.

So I bought some "Get Ready For The Code" text books by Nancy Hill.

They aren't bad, Erin has learned from them but I'd probably not use them with Billy if he wants to learn to read at such a young age because there is an equal focus on writing - which Erin is only 'almost' ready for, not champing at the bit to do.

Then we ran out of text book and I have just ordered more. Erin starts recognising names on our 'prayer cards'. The index cards that have names on them of people or things we need to pray for as a family. We draw out one each meal time and include it in out Grace time. She is obviously ready for words!

So I draw out my alphabet 'memory' game and we use the cards to make words. Words that are meaningful to Erin (Mummy, Daddy, Erin, Christopher) and words that follow the consonant-vowel-consonant pattern (cat, bat, pig, pen, jig).

Then we get out the index cards and I write down words that she knows and some conjunctions (on, in, the, at) and we make sentences (The cat sat on the mat. Mummy sat on Erin. Christopher sat on the fat cat on the mat.) Gradually they grow and grow as we add more words. I make nonsense sentences to encourage her to read the actual words rather than just supply words out of her head that she thinks should be there. We draw pictures and make the sentences to match encouraging comprehension rather than just "got that one right, next sentence now!"

And we're still reading! She is starting to pick out words in context as we find print in our environment and I have some easy read books on order from Amazon at the moment. I plan to fill a shelf or two with books she can read on her own and let her experience the deliciousness of choosing a book and READING it all on her own or sharing a story with someone she loves. But always, always, we will continue to read together.

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