Friday, 13 March 2009

The Fight

I’ve often thought about the best approaches with kids learning to read.

Is it best to start with all the building blocks: teach all the sounds, put them together, and build on up? My concern with that is you don’t really get to enjoy great writing and good books along the way. Instead you’re left reading Dick and Jane style books. Boring!

Is it best to jump into books and read together for hours and hours? You get to enjoy great books but then you’re left wondering if they’ll pick up on sounds and learn how to put them together and become independent readers. Will I be left reading aloud to this kid for years to come?

We seem to jump between the two types of approaches. Apparently we haven’t done too much damage that way.

I suspected for years that what mattered most was what you did at home to instil a love of reading. My oldest, Jill, never had a home reading program of any sort, and that was okay with me. I have never been a fan of tracking minutes or books. However, this year, Peirce's teacher has a home reading program.

Insert deep breath.

In an effort to be a supportive parent, we decided to give it a shot and participate. There's just one challenge in this home reading program though: the English books don't count. Rather, it has been all about the French books. Our list of English books we read pale in comparison to the other books we read on a daily basis - but we chose French Immersion - so we decided we should give it a hearty effort. Some weeks we do well and others are quite dismal. I put up with his criticism on my poor French accent. I put up with having to keep track of the books. And along the way I’ve learned a lot! Not only that, we have enjoyed the snuggling time, made it through the good books and the bad, and have had great conversations thanks to books.

Recently Peirce has been quite motivated to read every day and has been reading two or three times as many books each evening because or the dangling carrot: when you get to 100 you get a book!

Today he finally reached that summit. Sure enough he got his book and a certificate. The book he was given is a Magic Tree House book - and funny enough, we haven't read any of those! So tonight at bedtime we got started on it. In the middle of reading Peirce suddenly had to tell me a story:

Peirce: Peirce: I finally got my goal Mom.

Me: Did you go running in to hand her your duo-tang and announce you were at 100?

Peirce: No. I just gave it to her and sat down. But she was so excited she had to look right away and she counted...but she counted wrong. And we got into this big fight. She said I read 100 books but it was really only 99.

Me: Oh dear. Was it like Thomas' Snowsuit?

Peirce: Yup. It was a big fight. And I ended up with her clothes on and she ended up with my clothes on, and Mom, you wouldn't believe it. She wears red underwear with pink hearts on it. And everyone saw it because the principal was coming upstairs to talk about literacy and another teacher was going downstairs to the opera and another teacher was coming back from the library and it all happened when we had our fight.

Me: Wow. So what did the principal do?

Peirce: We had to get back in our own clothes right there and then. That's when we saw her red underwear with pink hearts. It was crazy. (insert pause) But, I'm still glad she gave me this book. It's really good. Keep reading.

My Peirce sure can weave a tale!!!

Oh, and by the way, Peirce was wrong. It really was 100 books.

AND he is learning to read!

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