Monday, May 5, 2014

Reading, reading, everywhere

Confession: I'm a tried and true licensed high school English teacher and I don't really know how to teach someone to read.  As I read what I was writing, I realized that it's actually pretty similar to being a parent--you might have kids who depend on you for everything from Advil to zoo trips, but that doesn't mean that you ever feel confident in knowing what you're doing.  It's all 'bout winging it, ya dig? 

So back to being a seemingly incapable English teacher turned mom who has a budding reader in her midst.  What's with all the pressure from everywhere to teach your kid how to read?  To spend laborious hours together going through words one letter at a time?  To devoting serious parent-child hours to mastering this daunting task?  That's what elementary school teachers are for...RIGHT?!?!?  (That was said tongue in cheek, friends.)

Welp, it turns out that I'm not doing much of anything that I would call intentional in order to help teach my child to read.  She seems to be doing well enough as is.  We're cool with where she's at.  She has to have some genetic predisposition to all things symbolism, right?  (Will she be the only kindergartner who recognizes that the stated color indicates a traditional understanding of purity and innate goodness in gentle, caring Snow White?)  In actuality, she's picking up a decent amount of words out of a) curiosity and b) reading by the literal ton of books (I know that this is a true weight and not a bit of hyperbole given how I have been the toter for the aforementioned ton). 

She's in a bit of a murky place in the children's section at the library between being too advanced/old for many of the picture books (Really, how many different ways can we teach the ABCs and counting?  Lots.) and being not very interested in many of the super-duper lame "learn-to-read in 3 easy steps" early reader books.  They're often dull, boring, and really uninteresting.  AND, they're all about dogs or cats with an occasional amphibian or ladybug thrown in for good measure.  Plus, is this the age when girls start the stereotype about loving horses?  (I distinctly remembered how shocked my mom was when I told her, kindly of course, that I didn't care a whit about horses when I was younger.  I sadly dashed her nostalgic hope that I would share her childish devotion to Black Beauty, perhaps.)  All of a sudden, these early reader books are full of horses.  Yay. 

Regardless of the unappealing options that are quickly taking over, we still devote lots of time to the old recliner, which is very quickly going to be outgrown if she continues on this torrid pace of growing up and stretching out.  (I keep asking her how she suddenly got so tall; she thinks I'm silly.  I'd really like her to explain it to me, though.  She surely hasn't just naturally turned into this burgeoning school-aged kid.)  I'm a big fan of the cuddling that ensues, the stories that develop (even if we have to read Arthur and Co. fifty times a week...what's up with this odd menagerie of animals?), and the time devoted to learning words.  We sound them out sometimes.  We anticipate what is coming next.  And we make predictions about the story line.  Other than that, this English teacher isn't all that well versed in the intricacies of the learning-to-read process. 

This kid is an on-again/off-again fan of Super Why (which, truly, I could probably watch for my own entertainment on any Friday evening), and we share a love of the pig character and his fun songs.  One of the girls often sings her own special song, which Abby was belting out the other night.  As she says here, "I really love to spell!  F-E-E-L-L!!"  She'll figure all this stuff out; I've no doubt.  And if that means that we sacrifice some of the "use this book in order to learn to read even thought it's really boring because it's all very short, simple sentences and relies on about 6 words that are used repeatedly" books in order to gain some depth of actual storytelling and plot, then that's the way our daughters will earn their reading skills.  I may have to read the same books over and over cause our kids (for some reason) think that frog and toad are funny, but we're going to have complex sentences and four-syllable words, dang it.  That, I know, is some good stuff.

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