Teaching Mommy to Read

Posted by Meghan

What a delight it is to watch your own kids learn to read- and how completely fascinating to realize that reading isn’t just how I think of it (currently, that’s furtively, on the couch, speedreading something easy and fun like the latest Robert Parker while the kids nap).

Both Molly and Jacob (newly 2!) have been “reading” books on their own for a month or two.  This consists of taking the books we read hundreds of times a week, and reading back to me what they’ve memorized for each page.  This includes the shortening or editorializing they’ve heard from their parents.  I was pretty amazed by this (especially when Jacob shook his finger at David in No, David and said, “That’s it mister, you stay after school!”), and thought this was pretty much the way they’d “read” until they actually learned to read.  But they’ve incorporated other things as well, that awed me, and made me realize I was thinking about things all wrong, in terms of putting reading in quotes and thinking that recognizing the letters and words on the pages was real reading.

They are really reading.  Memorization is a form of reading.  It’s reading when Molly goes through a whole book and tells us the background color of each page.  She’s absolutely getting meaning and enjoyment from the book.  (Probably more than when I skim…) When Jacob reads the book backwards (which he’s been doing lately with The Little Fire Engine), he’s looking not for the narrative I would look for, but for how the fire engine works- and he wants to start with the fire.  Makes sense.

And they’ve been adding their own storytelling into the mix this week.  When Jacob reads Trucks, Trucks, Trucks, he inserts his own experiences into the last page.  Matt and his mother go out in the real world to see real trucks, and Jacob says, “Mommy shower, and they go out.”  (I think he’s heard a few too many times at our house, “First Mommy has to shower and then we can do X.”)

Molly read The Three Bears to me, which starts, “Once upon a time, [there were] three little bears.”  Then she read The Tale of Peter Rabbit, beginning: “Once upon time, three little bunnies.”  I tried gently correcting her, by saying things like, “Yes, there were three good little bunnies and Peter.  There were four little bunnies.” And she kept repeating “Once upon time, three little bunnies.”  Then I got it.  I heard her reading Spicy Hot Colors, by saying, “Once upon time, three little colors.”  She reads every book now with a proper beginning (Once upon a time, there were three little…) and ending (The End).  The most jaw dropping was when she picked up my book and began reading, “Once upon time, three little words…”

Just when I thought I’d be teaching my kids to read, I realized they were the ones teaching me all about reading.

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