Monday, September 7, 2009

How do you spell B-R-E-A-K-T-H-R-O-U-G-H?


I have been officially “not worrying” about my 7-year-old son’s inability to read since he was about four.

For the past couple of years, every few weeks, I have stubbornly pulled out the same phonetic readers and listened to him painfully decode the same three-letter words.

We saw almost no progress beyond letter recognition for nearly three years.

And the older he has gotten, the more difficult it has been for me not to “w-o-r-r-y” when he struggled again to sound out words like “h-a-t” and “a-n-d.”

There is some dyslexia in Kip's family, so I have been especially concerned that he seemed to not recognize the word “the” in print after seeing it thousands of times over the past two or three years.

I had decided to give him a little more space and time. Maybe it was my faith in delayed academics, maybe procrastination. Whatever it was, it was the luxury of homeschooling.

Then today, my 11-year-old daughter decided to earn tickets for the LA County Fair. We found a program that will award the kids with vouchers for free rides for book reports -- three rides for every two book reports with a maximum total of nine rides for six book reports.

“Mom! What books have I read this summer?”

Well, not too many, actually. She spent more time running around, playing at the beach, making crafts from the recycling bin than reading. And I was fine with that. I knew that she would find her way back to reading. But when she realized she only had a couple of books to report, she immediately got to work.

Like a school kid steeped in years of learning to milk the system, she found the easiest unread chapter book on her shelf. By mid afternoon she had finished a novella on Barbie and was looking for another easy read.

And then, like the resourceful girl she is, she realized that instead of sharing her tickets with her brother, she could maximize both of their earning potentials by helping him get his own tickets.

So she taught him to read.

At least it seemed that way.

After an hour of too much quiet, I found them lying on the floor of their bedroom, Green Eggs and Ham spread in front of them.

“I’m helping him read it,” she explained. “He is guessing most of the words, but I’m helping him.”

Ok. Carry on, good children.

Another hour passed and when I checked he was still trying.

Finally he brought me Green Eggs and Ham and said it was too hard. But he had found the old stack of phonics books and wanted me to listen to him read them.

He picked out a book with several different long vowel combinations, one that we had not tackled. And he read it to me. Slowly and patiently he worked through every word.

He even explained to me the "silent e" rule, saying that he realized that “like” as in “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam-I-Am,” is the same as “wide,” a word he had just sounded out for me in his phonics book.

He was still trying to read to me when I put him to bed.

I felt like I was watching him walk across the living room for the first time.

I know that finishing a kindergarten level phonics book is a long way from second-grade level reading proficiency, but I really don’t care. I have no doubt he is going to make it.

Still reading after I am almost asleep.


  1. I couldn't believe it when I walked into the kids room and saw Micah teaching River...

  2. That's great! I was talking with a homeschool mom just last week who was saying she thought kids (boys especially) didn't need to learn to read until they're 8 or 9.

    You probably didn't know this Theresa, but I read your blog :)

    - Natalie (your cousin)

  3. Nana says, it's all in the position: Place son on lap, with arm around neck... viola!