Okay, so the tiny little reminders that “once you learn to read you’ll be able to play that game” and similar approaches haven’t worked…
I went into Emily’s room where all of the easy readers are sitting on a shelf, available to her, waiting for a little attention or interest. I pulled out all of the Hooked on Phonics books, put them in order by the numbers at the top right hand corner of each book and showed them to her.
“Look at these, Emily. These are some great books for practicing reading with.” She eyed me warily. “Here’s what we are going to do. Each day we are going to sit down and practice reading just one book. That’s it. Just one.”
Emily looked less than excited about the idea. “Okay,” she said, “but not right now.”
I smiled at her, “I think now would be a great time. Trust me, it will take us just a few minutes.” I had reviewed the book on the top of the stack and knew without a shadow of a doubt that she could read the book. It consisted of simple three-letter words, all of which she had previously sounded out.
I patted a spot next to me on the couch and smiled at her, “C’mon sweetie, let’s give this a try.”
Emily wants to rush ahead, she wants to look at the pictures and guess. And each time she does I point her back to the word and remind her, “Sound it out. What sound does this letter make?”
She read each and every word in the little book. And as we finished I said, “Wow, you read that whole book all by yourself. You sounded out each and every word!”
She grinned, and then the corners of her mouth turned down, “But I can’t read big books, Mama.”
“That will come with time, Baby, it really will. You just need to keep practicing.”
And that is just what we will be doing.
We read three books in three days. She still wants to guess, but she’s doing well. I gave her the option on the third day to re-read the second book if she liked. I said, “I noticed that it was a little more difficult for you. Would you like to go back and re-read it so that you are sure you know the words?”
“No, I want to read the third book.”
Afterwards I told her, “You are doing really well. Why do you keep telling people you can’t read? (she had done this the day before)
“Because I can’t read big words.” she responded.
“When you were a baby, could you go potty by yourself?”
“And when you started using a potty, did you use a small on or a big one?”
“A small one.”
“And how long after you started using the big potty did it take you to learn how to wipe yourself?”
“Reading is like that. You start small, and you learn bigger and bigger words. It takes time and it takes work.”
I think we are on our way…and she seems to be enjoying the process.
We took a break on the weekend, but got right back to it. She has now read eight books in eight days – with no complaints and really seems to be enjoying herself. She’s proud of the fact that she guesses less now and sounds the words out and regularly recognizes the ‘ee’ as a long e sound in words. She also seems to have ‘the’ down pretty well. One thing I have noticed is her inability to sit still. She reads a word, perhaps a sentence, then twists and wiggles, stands up, walks away. I’ve only patted the cushion next to me, or tilted the book away just a little so that she naturally has to sit to read it – this is hard for me. Part of me wants to say to her, “Why won’t you just sit down for five minutes?!” But I realize it is probably some nervous energy, she needs to express her fear, excitement and more. So I let her bounce around, and eventually the book gets read.
At the end of each session I point out the words she did really well on and tell her how much better she is getting by working so hard at reading. “It’s can be hard at times to figure out a word, but you are working really hard at this, and you can learn it, you will learn it, with each word you try and read.”
And with that…she just grins happily…