Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Vitamins and Condiments" - Learning to Read

I just can't believe it! My babies are READING!! I knew they were smart little boogers but, c'mon! They're not even four yet! My mother-in-law has told me in the past that Aaron was reading at age 4, and his first book was Hop On Pop. Yes, I believed her that he could "read" it, but I guess I assumed she must have meant "reciting," since he had probably been read that book so many times and had it memorized. Now that I see my own kids reading at such an early age, I tend to believe her that Aaron was actually reading that young. After all, they did get Daddy's brains!

Let me back up a minute. They have known all their uppercase letters since just before they were 2, although a few lower case ones still stump them from time to time. We tried to move from that to sounds, but they never seemed quite as interested in playing phonics games as they did in asking over and over what letter was what. So, I just figured they'd get it when they felt like it. And let me tell you...reading to your kids is the BEST thing you can do to prepare for reading on their own. We make a point to make the words on the page visible to them as we read, and eventually they started asking questions about certain words and about lower case letters. Once I realized they knew the majority of their sounds, I tried having them sound out some simple "consonant-vowel-consonant" (cvc) words. I found out that they had not yet grasped the concept that sounds combine together to form words, and if you stretch the sounds together, you can figure out what it says. Not confident in my ability to really go about teaching a child to read "properly," and knowing they were still only 3, I didn't push it. THEN....

Over Spring Break we were at a restaurant with my parents and the kids were coloring on a kids menu. For some time now they like to try to write words on their own and then ask me what it says. Their words normally end up something like "NHB." I tell them that's not a word, they write a few more letters, and return to coloring the pictures. On this day, however, I wrote "CAT" and asked Mason what it said. To my surprise, he "bubblegum stretched" those sounds out and came up with the right word. HUH? Who taught him that? I know for certain they do not work on this at school! They only go as far as letter recognition and a bit of phonics in their class. So, I wrote another word, "HAT"...and he got that one too! Then I reversed the roles and asked him to spell something for me. It escapes me what word it was, but he was able to listen for the three sounds and write them down. (Owen saw what Mason and I were doing, so he began doing the same thing on his kids menu with Granna's guidance). The topic changed and a few minutes later Mason said to me, "Mommy, this says "bob." He had written his own word and sounded it out in his head. I knew at this point I had to run with this new-found skill!

So I called a good teacher friend of mine for a refresher on what to do next (she is an expert at teaching kindergartners how to read). I made some fun games out of paper plates to focus on word families (for all you non-teacher lingo speakers out there, the "-an" family would be can, ran, fan, etc). I also made manilla folders with common blends that are unable to be sounded out, such as /ch/, /sh/, /th/, /oo/, etc. On the outside I wrote a giant "ch" and the inside had labeled pictures of things that used these blends...chicken, church, chain, etc. We went over these for a week or so and sprinkled in some "cvc" words as we came across them in books we read at night.

I also had to explain the difference between consonants and vowels, and told them that every word needs at least one vowel. We have a set of letters in which all the consonants are blue and all the vowels are red. I asked them one day what the red letters were called. They thought a minute and shouted out "VITAMINS!" And the blue letters? "CONDIMENTS!" Close...close...

The other day I purchased set 1 of the BOB book series, which has 12 little books included. These books begin with just 4 sounds, and by the 12th book, all sounds of the alphabet are included (except Q) and more words are added to the sentence. Book 1 has sentences like "Sam sat." Book 12, which they read tonight, has stuff like "The vet can fix the big cat." The idea is to go in order, but the kids are having fun choosing which book they want to read. Because they are still at the stage of sounding out most words, comprehension gets lost in the shuffle. We are definitely working on listening to the words that we read so that we know what the story is about. I've also tried to ask follow-up questions - sometimes after each page, and sometimes after the whole book - to check if they are comprehending. It's probably 50/50 right now, but we'll get there as we get faster and more fluent in reading.

We have taken several videos of them reading over the past few days, but most include a whining kid because Mommy doesn't think ahead and have them read during the day. I tend to wait, and by bedtime, they just don't feel like thinking! Tonight they were super enthused about reading and we got a good video of what they can really do! I'm SO proud of them and from what Mimi tells me, they are about 6 months ahead of when Daddy started reading. Wow!

And just in case you think I'm full of it, and for the doting grandmothers who want to see my readers in action, here is a video of them reading a BOB book. (It takes them a page or two to get warmed up but it becomes easy to understand what they are trying to read if you watch past the first minute or so.) Also, below the video are the sentences each kid reads. The words are not that clear in the video, and it's much easier to watch if you have an idea of what they're trying to say.

Jig and Mag (Mason reads title)

M: Jig is a big pig.
O: Jig can dig and dig.
M: Mag can dig and dig.
O: Did Jig win? Did Mag win?
M: Jig did win.
O: Jig and Mag ran.
M: Mag can tag Jig.
O: Mag did win.
M: The End.