This afternoon, Ryan had his second reading lesson of the week--actually, his second reading lesson ever! I still can't quite believe it. Here's how it went down.
To preface my story, I should tell you that we often play a little game with the kids called "Don't You Eat That--Or You'll Be Big And Healthy And Strong!" We usually play that game when broccoli or other healthy food is on the menu and we're trying to encourage at least a bite or two. So we make a big deal about how we don't want them to be big and healthy and strong so they'd better not eat that piece of cheese or yogurt or whatever. Hilarity ensues--and the People giggle (unless it's really something they hate!) and usually make a big demonstration out of "defying" our strict orders by eating said food. Good times. (This would be a good time to plug a great book called Playful Parenting. The author has lots of great things to say about playing games with the kids that allow them to be in control of the situation.) What can I say, we're hysterical around here.
So, about the reading. We're all just hanging out last Sunday and one of us--me or Brendan or Ryan, can't remember--said something about Ryan learning to read. And I don't know what got into me, but I looked at Ryan and said something like "But now that I think about it, I'm not at all sure I want you to learn how to read. Because if you can read, then I can't write secret messages to Daddy anymore!" Well that did it. "What secret messages?" and "You mean a kid can learn to read?"
So we played around with some real secret message-y words, like gold and treasure and code. And then we moved into some sounding-out basics, like an, tan, ran, man, fan, and such like. He was really getting the idea that you are supposed to say the sound that each letter makes kind of fast and run-together. He was loving it--the idea that he could figure out what the code was all by himself! Just delightful giggling! Then I mentioned that he was "exploding the code" and he thought that was simply hysterical, so then whenever he figured out a new word, he'd follow it with a big old bomb explosion noise and belly laughs. (For those not familiar, the Explode the Code series is a well-known reading series. So I borrowed that phrase from them, although we don't actually own any of the books.)
We left it at that, until this afternoon when he said, playfully so that I knew he wasn't really worried, "Mom, do you really not want me to read?" And so I reassured him that we were just playing a game a few days ago, and that I thought reading was one of the most useful things a person could learn to do ever. I told him we could have more reading lessons if he wanted, and amazingly--he wanted!
So I broke out my copy of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, which I've heard good things about--one of my homeschooling friends is using it successfully with a couple of her kids. Would you believe that we blew through the first 12 lessons? I think the use of arrows under the letters and words (look inside the book under 'excerpt' for an example) to show the order in which to pronounce the sounds is a very useful visual for Ryan. He totally GOT IT. I even made up a couple of other words using the letters we reviewed and he could figure out the words.
Morgan was actually doing well, too! She knows her letter sounds much better than Ryan even. She's been playing a lot of Starfall lately.
If you could have heard him--both of them--giggling with glee! Ryan kept saying, "You can't hide the codes from me anymore, Mom! I'm going to figure them all out!" MWAHAHAHA, diabolical laughter!
What's even more impressive to me is that during dinner he was explaining his new skill to Brendan. And we demonstrated how he sounds out the words--without the words. I just told him the letters and used my finger to point across our imaginary word, only on the cabinet in the kitchen instead of in our book, and he figured out the words--even one we hadn't covered! I think this demonstrates that he definitely understands the concept of how the letter sounds fit together to make words. Dude.
He needs more practice, of course, especially since all of his letter sounds are not automatized just yet (need to look into The Writing Road to Reading, because I think that is where the strength of their idea is). I reminded him that he'll get better at kabooming those codes if he practices regularly, and if he doesn't approach me first, I'll suggest a quick review every once in a while. (Again--this is a balance between gentle encouragement and squashing all the fun out of it. I'll let you know if we cross the line, which I hope we don't!)
He's so proud and excited. Me, too!