I am beaming with delight! Sam FINALLY broke ANOTHER barrier to reading!
Teaching her to read has been a long process. Since we started when she was 2, and I only teach her when she shows interest in learning in the next step, it is taking awhile, which is fine by me. We have time. I remember when she was 2, right before she turned 3, I was so proud of her for learning all of her letter sounds and BEGINNING to put the sounds together. With my help, she could sound out CAT. Not bad for a two year old. (Her area of interest is reading, so she excels at it. The interests that she does not exactly excel at is math, so definitely not to say Samantha is a child genius or anything.)
After that, there was not much more about reading that her little brain could handle, so we continued to read to her and occassionally review 3 letter words with her, CAT RAT BAT...She continued to play Starfall and other reading games.
And when she was about 3-1/2, she started getting better at sound out words on her own. She was very proud of herself, and so were Jessie and I. Around that time she also started asking what things around her said, like the STOP sign or Turn Left On Green Arrow Only. Mostly signs. Sometimes boxes, like cereal or something, environmental print. She has some of them memoriized because of their label, like Juicy Juice.
As she turned 4, those 3 letter words were "e-z-p-z" for her, as she puts it. You wrote cat on the board, she knew what it was. You wrote dog, she knew. She was just doing what we all do, pretty much memorizing the words. And even the ones she didn't know, it took her a second to sound out.
We still read to her. We still played games...I allowed her to "read" to me at night-whatever she made up out of the picture sin the book. And we really started focusing on writing words, even words that were not real. (I once read a book by John Holt, either How Children Learn or How Children Fail. I can't remember which one it was. He mentions that as a child writes a word...."rotoput" for example, and they ask what it says, we are not to say, "That is not a word." Unless we want to stifle the way that our children think. It is, in fact, a word. It is just not a word that we might have a definition to. So you sound it out, just as you teach them to do, and you tell them what it says. So that is what we do.) And I have found it encouraging for Samantha. A lot more encouraging than saying, "Sweetie, that is not a word." That is DIScouraging for her. So we continued that, and sometimes, in the car, or even at home she would say stuff like, "How do you spell Mercury?" And while I know the chances are that she won't remember how to spell Mercury after I tell her one time, it keeps her mind working. It keeps her fresh in that letters make words, and words me something. She kept showing signs of wanting to read, but I didn't know how else to help her break that barrier, but to encourage her.
And last night, as we were cleaning up her room, she looked at me and said, "Mom, where did Nana get me this stuffed animal?" As tired as I was, I phrased my reply like this, and I am glad I did. I said, "Samantha, I really don't know. It was probably the thrift store or something." She said, "Are you sure?" "Yah. Pretty sure." "Are you sure she didn't get it from...Y-Y-Y-O-U-YOO H-H..two o's say oo,oo Hoo. Are you sure she didn't get it from Yoo Hoo?" SHE DID IT! I looked at the tag on her stuffed animal, and sure enough, it said Yoo Hoo. She made a connection. In her mind, that tag said where Nana must have bought it from. I couldn't not quit screaming and jumping up and down. I called Jessie at work and I said, "SHE IT READING! LIKE READING! REAL READING! She can figure out words she has never seen before! Words that don't make conventional sounds!" He shared my excitement. He was shocked. I could hear him telling his friends at work! I didn't see her making it this far anytime soon. Because-reading is hard. I don't even know how I learned, with all the rules and everything...It is just a lot.
Not to say Samantha is this all knowing, amazing reader now. She is not, but she just took a HUGE leap in reading! I put some words on the board for her. Words like Cast and Bird and Scoot. All kinds of words. One by one, she read them. Shortly after that, Jessie got home, and he wrote the word PUMP on the board for her. For some reason she could not figure it out, so we left it alone. I didn't want to push her. I thought maybe she didn't want to read in front of Jessie. Then we wrote the word "Poop" on the board. She read that and laughed and laughed and laughed.
That night I had her read a book with me. I asked first, and she said, "OH YES! I want to read it! I will read the whole thing!" We read "Dimity Duck." I read the words that were just too much to explain like "Dimity." She read the rest. There were some words that I had to tell her the rules too, but then she would get it. She got to the word, "That." I said T and H say "th." Can you sound it out now, and she did, in no time, she said, "Well, that is "th" and that is "at," so th-at, that." And then there were other words she breezed through, like duck and pond and swim. The ones that didn't have a rule. Ironically enough, we came across the word "Pump." Again, she had a problem with it. I don't know what it was about the word, the p at the begining and the end maybe? I just patiently waited and listened. I did not intervene because she did not ask for help. It too her about a minute or minute and a half, but she finally got it. She was overjoyed! It took awhile to read that book, but it was SO worth it. I can't wait for the day she picks up a book and reads the whole thing by herself!
After we read the book, I was trying to encourage Samantha by telling her how pretty soon she would be reading big books like I read, big thick books with tons of words. She was so excited! And she said that she wants to try living books again. So I checked out the book, "George's Secret Key to the Universe" from the library. It is being shipped to our library by the interloan library system. It is a short chapter book, but it is big to her, and full of a rich vocabulary and lots of information about space. I have heard good reviews. I can't wait to read it!
I also found some new activities for her solar system unit and TONS of cool, new books to check out that are about more than just the planets. They are consellations, the moon, asteroids, meteors, some of them are just about one planet-in depth. Some of them even glow int he dark! I can't wait to get the email that they are available for us to pick up at the library. Woot!