Saturday, July 14, 2012

First Words

In April, Owen asked me when he would be able to start reading.  Awesome!  We've taken the "go at your own pace" approach, choosing to let the kids discover letters and words on their own rather than learning through direct instruction. (Our preschools do art and exploration rather than "letters of the week" and worksheets.)  But, as is natural, Owen has learned his letters just from general exposure and us talking about what we see.  He's been able to pick out recognizable words and kids names by reading the first letter for a while, so I thought he could try sounding out a word or two. Sure enough, he was able to sound out a few Dr Suess words in a book we hadn't read before.

It was one of the coolest moments of being a parent to listen to him sound out those first few words and then turn to me in wonder and declare, "Mom... I'm reading!"

Enter the Bob books!  I vaguely remember those books (or something remarkably similar) from when we were little, but they are just awesome sets of 10-12 very short books.  About 12 pages in each book, each with just one sentence.  (Pat was a dog. Pat was Sid's pal. etc) For the next few days, Owen was asking to read Bob books to anyone that would listen. As luck would have it, Grandma and Grandpa were visiting the next weekend, so Owen had lots of captive audiences. 

I love listening to Owen read. It's fascinating to watch him - reading is exhausting work and you can tell he is using all his brain power to decipher the words (probably doesn't help that he seems to be ready for a pair of glasses.)   I love the observation (by Bev Bos) that the best thing we can do to help kids become confident readers is to help them learn to take risks and have the confidence to make mistakes. Learning to read requires a lot of risk - you do it wrong over and over and over and have to keep trying in the midst of mistakes.  Owen is stubborn and determined, but he is also quickly discouraged and I feel like we are learning right along with him the types of strategies that work best to encourage him toward challenging goals.

We're not pushing the reading and realize that this is just the very beginning of reading, but I love it when Owen asks to read his own bedtime story.  Like all developmental milestones, he was motivated for a week or so and then moved on to new interests. He cycles back to reading every couple weeks.  Of course, it took him about one pass through to memorize all the Bob books and most of the "Step Into Reading" type books at the library are still beyond his focus level. So we're on to Bob series #3 and looking forward to the next year(s) as Owen continues to grow into a more and more confident and adventurous reader!

(Side note: This new reading milestone has also caused me to observe our world in a new light.  Oh, the questions that are going to come when Owen realizes he can read the names on buildings and the words on billboards.  How lucky that we get to drive past a particularly seedy section of 99W on our way on and off the freeway.  Can't wait until I get to answer questions about La Reve, The Pussycat, and Fantasy Video.  Urgh.)

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