When my girl entered Kindergarten, I knew that part of the curriculum would include learning to read. But what I didn’t realize, was that her progress would be heavily reliant on the participation of her parents – that it would be our job to guide her through the tedious process of learning the life skill that is reading.
At first the thought of my little girl learning to read on her own was exhilarating. My daydreams were filled with visions of her sitting cross-legged on a patch of grass under an old elm tree, holding a classic storybook daintily in her hands. Spending hours lost in her own world of imagination – swirling down the tunnels of Alice in Wonderland, chasing the little white rabbit and celebrating unbirthdays. Lost in the stories of Anne of Green Gables, quoting and re-enacting the verses of The Lady of Shallot like Anne Shirley.
>But so far, I have to confess, teaching my girl to read has been…less than exotic.
When we sat down to tackle our first read, she came well-equipped with the sound that each letter makes, and how some letters make different sounds when read together. But the challenge with our oh-so-complicated language, is that we have so many silent letters, inexplicable rules, and seemingly nonsensical spellings, that it’s next to impossible to explain it all to a 6-year-old’s inquisitive mind.
I thought that this would be the one time that my Degree in English Literature, and years of experience as an ESL teacher would come in handy, but there is no skill that can prepare you for this milestone.
In the beginning I was patient. “Sound it out” I would coax in a motherly tone. “Good try honey, very close, try again” I would say between gritted teeth. Not only is our language a tricky one to master, but navigating through the rough waters of a frustrated 6-year-old’s temper is even tougher. “Tuh-oh-uh-guh-huh-eh-er?” – “No honey, -ou makes the sound -ow, and -gh sounds like -fff, and -er together is -ur.” What the eff, right?
And once Summer hits, us parents are on our own. No more skipping the odd nighttime reading, knowing that the content will be covered in class the next morning. No my friends, we are left to fend for ourselves.
Thankfully, the BC Library Association and our local public library have developed a Summer Reading Club – one that encourages early readers to read one book a day, and gives them milestones to reach, weekly gifts, games and resources, and a prize (they can choose between a trophy and a new book) for reading every night for the duration of the Summer. Motivation for the kids, and ammo for us parents.
My girl has now completed 5 weeks of the Summer Reading Club, and only has 2 weeks to go. She has become a more confident and skilled reader, and I have become a more patient parent!
Have you been having a hard time teaching your little ones how to read? Do you have any other tips for making it easier for us parents?