Cassie’s Adventures in Reading

Cassandra took a huge leap into reading yesterday.

I had made a book with stories about our pets. Each chapter was about six sentences about a different cat. The book was lost for some time and we were trying to get her to read age-appropriate material that is also her reading level, which is currently quite a bit lower than her interest/maturity level. (That’s the biggest problem I see with late readers; most of the easy readers are for 4 and 5 year-olds, not seven or eight.) Well, we found the book. I opened it and Cassie jumped up onto my lap and started to read.

She read the first story and even got the word dangerous without tripping. There were some other tough words that no longer intimidate her. The second story was about a cat named Pineapple, who was tragically struck down by a car speeding through our village last week. So Cassie enjoyed reading about Pineapple as a memorial. Eric joined in for this part. (Pineapple was his pet and his friend.) The word Pineapple was repeated. And here is where Cassie made a quantum leap. She had just read “Pineapple” and the next sentence started with the same word. So I told her. I said, “Look. This word is the same as the one you just read. So you do not need to sound it all out and figure out what the letters spell. All you got to do is remember what this word looks like.”

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AH-HAH! I didn’t tell her to memorize this important word. She gets scared by that. No, I just said that she knows what this word looks like so she always knows what Pineapple looks like. In this case, the word was in the paragraph above, and on the same page. But the concept of sight words means she doesn’t have to decode every word she reads.

I explained that when we (as in the rest of us) read, we do not sound words out—we know what the words say. Just like a face. I actually used this example: When you see Stephanie, you don’t have to think to yourself, “Let’s see, it’s a girl, and she looks kind of like her mom and you can see her dad in the eyes and chin. Her hair is like her mom’s. And add it all up to figure out it must be Stephanie.” No! You just look at her and know who she is, ‘cause you know her!

In this way we know words. I don’t try to learn how to memorize faces, I just get used to the ones I see the most and know who they are. Words are the same. Sometimes you have to figure it out, but the more you read, the more of these words become your friends and they are easy to recognize.

From then on, she read four more stories and was able to refer back to repeated words and also realized she has a stable of sight words, more than she knew!

As she read story after story, she needed help with the occasional word that would elude her. One word was “friend”. The vowels are confusing. I told her that the word friend is like a friend; you know that friend without thinking about it. So be sure you know your “friend”. Then next time you see the word, you will recognize your friend. And Eric pointed out that Pineapple was his friend and we recognized both the word and the cat.

Sight words are the short-cut she always wanted. Spelling it out is too hard, but memorizing is also too hard. So recognizing old friends is the way to go! Cassie will very soon be reading books. I am delighted to announce this unschooling victory.

A kind of funny story: When Kevin was about 2 or 3, he was reading words. He made us explain letters and their sounds to him. He ate up books. So soon he was reading the books by himself. He would hold the book, look at the pages and read the words. He knew exactly which words were on which page and he read the entire book in this manner. Colleen’s mom was not as impressed as we were.

“He has simply memorized the story,” she said, “That’s not reading, its just memorizing.”

We knew better than to argue, but as I just pointed out, sight words are the secret weapon of reading. If you look at a page and you know what words are on it, or you look at a sentence and you know what the words are, if you look at a word and you know what word it is, then you are reading. Isn’t that what reading is?

Kev had to learn phonics to help him with words he did not yet know, so he was motivated to learn phonics after his sight words dried up. This happened when he desired to read something that mom and dad had not yet read to him.

So I figure that each beginner reader has a different ratio of sight words to sound-‘em-out words, but if the person knows what the word says, she is reading. Kevin had to learn phonics to supplement the gaps left with sight words. Cassie had to be taught that it’s OK to have a few sight words so you don’t have to sound out everything! They both read. And their reading is a function of their desire to read, end of story.

I think reading should be taught in the home before a kid goes to school. That would save billions. Oh wait, that’s not the intent of school is it? School is about convincing the average parent that only professionals are able to do these things and that’s why we have to give billions to the system and all these jobs for textbook writers and DI salesmen and teachers and many many layers of administration and blahhh….

If it were about teaching kids to read, all they gotta do is read this blog. But my guess is they are too busy trying to figure out how to convince the taxpayers we need more money to figure out how to teach kids to read…..

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We have decided to start this journal to keep track of our children's life lessons learned in our homeschool journey. We believe that as parents we are accountable for our own children's education. It is up to us to make sure we prepare them to be active and responsible citizens, not a drain on society. So this blog will be a place where we can share our daily lessons and activities that we incorporate into our homeschool.

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Mother to 9 children, 5 on earth and 4 in heaven.
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Christian Unschoolers
Unschooling is learning as you live life. All of life involves learning. This is what we "teach" our children.


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