My five- year old granddaughter has suddenly become very keen on reading. She is starting to tackle books on the Oxford Reading Tree and we were reading a delightful story from the Songbirds series by Julia Donaldson, called ‘The Odd Pet’. Only seven or so pages and it took about three-quarters of an hour! Not because she was having trouble with the words at all but because she was having so much fun! The picture of the strange pet, called a Zog, brought long and hearty laughter. She had to count, several times, each of its ten legs. She pointed out that , although the Zog could run, so could the other pets: a dog and cat. The Zog could hop and so could she. There was a hopping demonstration of course! And an encore! Then the Zog laid eggs which hatched just like her chicks: more comments and gales of laughter from her. However, if she had been a Zog, she said, she would have pink spots on her eggs not orange ones! So on and on it went.
I think, if I had been a mum trying to get her through a reading task while needing to deal with other children, cooking and all that has to happen after school, I might have found all this a little frustrating. Children seem to have an inordinate ability to waste time on other things when you are trying to get something done! Luckily, grandmas have more time!
But then this thought came to me. WHY DO WE READ? Why do you want your child to read books? To be involved with them, to find them interesting, to interact and use their imaginations, surely! And she was doing that already! She was already demonstrating a genuine engagement with the story. She was already relating it to her own life, making comparisons, imagining with it, loving it in a very active way! That was as important as the fact that she was reading the book! Learning to read should not be a chore but an adventure!
I cast my mind back to reading with her sister and really kicked myself for my (hopefully hidden) impatience when she spent ages looking at the pictures and telling little stories and jokes instead of just getting on and reading the five word sentence at the top of the page! I realised that, if we want to instil a love of reading, we need to let them love the activity and love the books.
Maybe something to think about, if you catch yourself on the verge of saying something like ‘Come on! We need to get on with this!’ If your young child is enjoying reading naturally that is a whole lot simpler than having to spend time encouraging them to read later! That is usually a much more complicated task – this way is as easy as breathing!
You can find out more about the Songbirds Phonics Books here: www.juliadonaldson.co.uk/phonics.htm
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Guest Blog by Cathy Bird
Since retiring from full-time teaching Art and English and her post as Assistant Head and Sixth Form Tutor, Cathy Bird has concentrated on her painting and now runs art courses and sessions at her own studios in Kent. She also tutors students at all levels in Literacy, Comprehension and Essay-writing.