I was reminded of Borges’ words the other day when my 3 year old came home from school after her first visit to the school library. She was so excited – much more so than she was after the soccer incursion they’d had the previous day. (And I was so hoping that one of my children would, unlike me as a child, enjoy sport) It wasn’t as if she’d never been to a library before; we go to our local at least once a fortnight. I think it was the independence, the freedom to choose anything.
My five year old is also experiencing a kind of independence when it comes to books, that of being able to read them by herself. I’ve been quite fascinated watching the way she has learned to read. At first it was so slow and almost frustrating for her – she loves books so much she just wants to know what the story is and it took far longer for her to find out when she was reading them herself than when she was being read to. But now she’s moved away from having to sound out each letter individually and then combine the sounds to form the words. She is able to look at a sentence and her mind recognises many of the words, without having to sound them out.
It’s so interesting to see this jump from combining the sounds of letters to recognising a whole word. It makes me realise how effortless and unconscious reading is, once you’ve learned how. I can see how much my daughter wants to achieve this effortlessness. But I can also see that the path for her to follow is littered with many uninteresting school readers that are fabulous for teaching her a word like ‘talk’ but not that great for engaging her in any kind of story. So she keeps going to the bookshelf and picking up her Raindow Magic books and trying to read those to me, because that’s what she really wants – the independence to be able to read the books she choose, not the ones that are chosen for her.
Of course the only way I can help her to achieve what she wants is to explain to her that the school readers will help her be able to read her Rainbow Magic books soon – that just like we can’t sit down and play ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ on the piano straight away, we have to learn all the notes and rhythms first. Luckily for me, she’s happy to do it – she’ll read pretty much anything. But I wonder about other kids who aren’t so attached to stories – how do they become engaged with reading when the books they are being given to read aren’t that interesting.
Anyway, I’ve been given a new appreciation for the complexities of reading – that it’s about letters and words as well as stories. In the meantime, we’ve found the Reading Eggs book packs to be great – funny, engaging and teaching us all the right things. If you know of any other great kids early reading books, let me know. Until then, I’ve mader a commitment to sitting down with my daughter every day for five minutes or so after we’ve read our books for school and listening to her read Ruby the Red Fairy. Last night she got through 2 paragraphs, which may not seem a lot, but at age 5, it was a real achievement.