More thoughts about reading

When a topic rankles your soul unrelentingly, consumes any thoughts you may have in your “free time” (kid-free), is a subject of much prayer and fasting, and you start having inner dialogues to argue and justify the aforementioned thoughts, it’s pretty much futile to just wait patiently, no matter what you told yourself earlier.

Such has been my life with Henry and reading. Or non-reading.

To avoid rehashing all of the inner dialogues, here is my grand conclusion:

Unreadiness is not the same as unwillingness.

If Henry were truly not ready to read, then we would not have completed the Kindergarten level of Hooked on Phonics in four months. He would have struggled with identifying letters, most likely wouldn’t have known the sounds they make, and would have had a difficult time connecting the dots. This was not the case for him.

Which led me to realize that when you’re five years old, Legos are more important to you than learning to read. Duly noted. Who wants to do hard things, ever?

Time for Life Lesson 105.

We started tackling reading again this week. But my approach has been modified. This is the recipe I’m trying to follow right now:

  1. Change in curriculum. Now we’re using Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. I believe it’s working for Henry because he doesn’t have the pressure of a brightly colored book waiting to be read. That was the part he would balk at before. In this new book, the stories are encapsulated in the lesson and are illustration-free. So it works. This change is working for me because I felt there were too many holes in the logic and sequence of the Hooked on Phonics program. I like the systematic and very thorough approach in Parent’s Guide.
  2. Set a timer. I’ve been setting an egg timer for 10 minutes when we sit down to work on reading. If we finish the lesson, great. If not, no biggie. Ten minutes keeps it from getting big and overwhelming for Henry.
  3. Lots of positive reinforcement. I didn’t praise him enough in Round One. I’m trying to find one thing he did well in each lesson and sincerely compliment him on it. I’m trying to stress less and laugh more. We have lots of High Fives and hugs.
  4. Reinforce lessons learned. Again, learning from my mistakes the first time. Once he mastered something, we would just plow on. This time, I’m using Explode the Code Book One to reinforce the things he already knows. It feels “easy” to him, so he feels successful.
  5. Incentives. Hooked on Phonics had a sticker chart. That was fun. We could see our progress and be excited about it. Overall? Not a big enough carrot. Now Henry’s working toward a Lego Bionicle toy that he wants. He still gets the daily sticker for doing reading, but he’s a leetle more motivated to sit down with me for our ten minutes of reading now.

(I am clearly not a 5-year old boy. This does NOT motivate me!)

Once we had the Bionicle chart on the fridge, Me-Too (a.k.a. Samuel) wanted in on the gig. So he’s working toward this guy:

(Seriously? What happened to chocolate as a motivator?)

He’s doing great. I started him at the beginning of the Parent’s Guide and we flew through the review of consonants and vowels. We’re two or three lessons into the short-vowel sound words, and he makes it quite clear that he wants to do this himself, with no help from the teacher! I think reading will come much easier to him than to Henry.

I feel much better with this change in course. We can all do hard things, and the one thing I can’t wait to teach my boys is how awesome the feeling of satisfaction is when you conquer a mountain. Wish us luck as we climb.

2 Responses to “More thoughts about reading”

  • Ami

    John Steinbeck said that learning to read is one of the most important things we do in life, and we do it as small children. He’s kind of deep (and kind of depressing, but that is another topic altogether.)

    We have had great success with a couple of movies by Leapfrog. The first one discusses every letter’s sound and it’s called, “The Talking Letter Factory.” The second one starts to put those sounds together and is called, “The Talking Word Factory.” They are usually at Walmart for under $10. My kids watched these short videos a few times and had the sounds down pat.
    It sounds like Henry is past this stage but you might think about it for the younger ones.
    When Henry gets ready for small chapter books let me know. I have found some really awesome selections (especially for boys, my Will was a semi-reluctant reader and I have done much, MUCH research finding just the right books he would like.)
    I’m so glad you’re homeschooling too. It helps to re-enforce the feeling that I might just know what I am doing.

  • Camille

    I’m so glad you and Henry have found something that works! I really like the timer idea – that takes the pressure off of you and him to decide when your done. And you are right that praise is important; sometimes I forget that too! Homeschooling, with all it’s challenges, is so dynamic that it forces us to be ever-evaluating. It gets a little exhausting, but all that evaluation leads to learning (for them AND us!), and for me it is a really good way to practice listening to the Spirit. Good job Mindy! 🙂

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