Mr J just finished reading aloud the second chapter of A Bear Called Paddington to me. Words flow out of his mouth with great expression and eloquence. He stumbles slightly over words like "doubtfully" but swiftly reads the word "mysteriously" with no trouble at all.
Once upon a time, we started lessons in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. After we had gone through the first thirty lessons or so, he lost interest in sitting down to study with me every day. Not long after, I could hear him sounding out words in one of the Beano comics. I didn't pursue our lessons, thinking he might be ready to start The Ordinary Parent's Guide again the next year. When he was five, we tried again. He was still uninterested. So I gave him Bob Books, and he happily read these to me. He read picture books aloud to Coo, and I would often overhear him reading stories from Beano in a whisper during quiet time, or sometimes paragraphs from the Narnia books, which were popular with the older two boys that year.
Now he's reading Paddington. He requested this book from the library, and waited excitedly for two days before we could collect it. He seems to feel a particular affinity with this messy, slightly clumsy, often-misunderstood bear. Aww, Mr J...
The moral of the story is that I did not teach him to read. He learned when he was ready, and when he wanted to.
The older boys were totally different. At four, we began a fun program of Jolly Phonics, which they enjoyed greatly, as it was like playing a game while we learned sounds and letters. At five and even six, they still did not easily put the sounds together to create words. Finally, everything "clicked" for Lefty, and he ambitiously began reading The Hobbit just after his seventh birthday.
Righty still struggled, and remained at the point of putting basic sounds together without any fluidity. I encouraged him to read Bob Books for a long time, without any pressure, and was careful to assure him that everyone learns to read at their own pace. I reminded him that he learned to walk first, while Lefty crawled around after him for over a month, crying, because he wanted to walk too! I decided to go back to the beginning for him, and we started The Ordinary Parent's Guide [originally purchased with Mr J in mind] together. For him, this traditional approach to phonics did what Jolly Phonics had failed to do, cracking the reading code for him after 231 lessons. With the confidence now to pick up a book, he started cautiously with easy readers. Within weeks he had begun reading the Narnia series. He was nearly eight.
Three children: three very different stories.
Coo informed me today, quite confidently, that she doesn't want to use a potty.
I replied, "But you're a big girl now, and big girls go on the potty! They don't use a nappy. Would you like to try sitting on the potty instead of going in your nappy?"
"Big girls go on the potty?" she repeated questioningly, looking thoughtful.
"Yes, they do!" I answered, thinking to myself; Yay! She's going to want to try it now!
"I don't need to use a potty. I use my nappy," she responded. "But I'm a big girl," she finished, firmly.
And so begins the fourth story. In my head, I can already hear her strong, self-assured voice telling me, "But I don't need to learn to read. You can read to me."