“Mummy, h- h- HOLE” T said as we cuddled in bed reading our nighttime story.
“Why doesn’t this word start with a h?” He asked.
I re-read the sentence to him again, to show him that he was pointing at the word ‘big’, and the next word was ‘hole’.
Story time has been taking a little longer than usual, as he points to words and asks me to repeat them, and as he looks for initial sounds of words. T tells me that he wants to learn to read.
The teacher in me sees many, many ‘teachable’ moments within that time. However, the parent in me now knows better. She sees him being inquisitive, she sees him relaxed and free to ask questions without the pressure of being ‘taught’ something. She knows his anxieties and his fear of being wrong. So the parent gently answers his questions, praises him for having a go at new sounds and words. She is teaching nothing, and guiding everything at the same time.
When I’m teaching, my favourite moment is the ‘click’ moment. I had a little learner write the first letter of her name the other day, and it was truly one of those moments. Some teachers call it a magic moment. It’s that time when you can seriously imagine a light bulb going off in their head and they beam as they realise that have figured this thing out! The biggest thing about those ‘click’ moments is they come at different times to different children and while some might be ready to take that moment and run with it, others, depending on their personality will take time to chew on it for a while – let it surface, let themselves become truly confident in that moment, before taking it with them to form connections with their next magic moment.
And sometimes, we move them on too soon. We are eager, to get them across to the next ‘click’. The effect of that, for some children, and certainly for mine, can be discouragement. You didn’t let them bask in their glory long enough and now they are put off. They don’t want to have a bar of the next stage of learning. They are done with it.
So what should you do if your child starts showing real enthusiasm in learning to read? Maybe they are 3, 4 or 5. Maybe T will be ready to read when school starts and that’s awesome. Or maybe he is going to bask in this glory a little longer, this knowing that sounds come together to dance on the page and make words. Those words then make for some amazing stories that form wonderful pictures in his head that only he knows.
Here’s what I’m going to do here and now for my child who is now showing real interest in reading.
Keep immersing him in books around his interests: We go to the library almost fortnightly and I could watch him pick out books all day. Some are just regular stories, others are information books about his current interests. They live in a basket near his bed so he can access them anytime he likes.
Let him pick the same books over and over again: It drives me crazy sometimes. There’s a whole world of books out there, man! Why do you want to read the same book everyday for 3 weeks!? However, repetition means familiarity, and with that he can start really looking at a book in its entirety. He’s not just focusing on the pictures now. He’s looking at the words, he’s talking about the punctuation and he’s asking “why?” as we read.
Get silly with reading and do it with a cuddle: Mem Fox said it best in the quote below. We will keep reading together for the enjoyment, and the pure joy that comes from storytelling, giggles and cuddles.
That’s it. No specific teaching reading from me just yet. I’m just there for the encouragement. Soon there will be readers, sight words and so much more. For now, it’s a balance of watching him have ‘click’ moments and showing him that reading is one of the best gifts in the world #booknerd #notsorry.
When did your child learn to read and how did you go about it?