Monday, December 12, 2011
The World of Dick and Jane: A First Reader Experience
Today I was finishing up a bit of work at the computer while my daughters were playing quietly in another room. "Quietly" being the operative word. Usually there is laughing, screaming, crying, tattle-telling, singing, crashes, etc. In the quiet, I could hear my daughter reading. She's three.
She started reading a couple months ago. One night I was busy switching out a load of laundry before bed, and I told her to go read (look at) a book while she waited for me. She said, "Mom I don't know how to read." So that night I started teaching her. Way back before she was even walking I bought her a Dick and Jane book. It was the first book I learned to read. It was also the first book my mother learned to read. She still has that copy, tattered and full of the doodles of the progression of kids who have read its pages.
My daughter has been amazing. I think it's a combination of memorizing certain words and certain word characteristics (the long "s" word is "something") and thinking about letter sounds. It been interesting for me, as well. I will never know why she consistently mixed up "come" and "look" over and over again. It's certainly been a test of my patience. She often looks at the illustrations first and has a million questions before she even starts reading...many of which are answered in the text. It took me a while to learn that she wanted to be challenged. We started out by rereading several stories each night often repeating two or three from the previous night. I think she would get bored and start guessing the words rather than studying them as she read. Now we read one new story from the book each night. The beauty of Dick and Jane is the repetition. And as new words are added they appear again and again in later stories. It's true, as an adult the repetition gets old quickly. But what I didn't remember as a kid was the humor in the illustrations. Spot, the dog, digging sand onto Sally who then uses an umbrella to shield herself from the falling sand. The kid who makes a mess and blames the pet. I can identify with the mother who is grocery shopping. Sally (the youngest) grabs a bag of cookies and is ready to go home. That's it. The most important item is in the cart. My daughter thought the story of of the three children dressing up as monsters in paper dry-cleaning bags and then chasing the father was hilarious. While there are a few things to explain, such as milk delivery, the stories are timeless.
Anyway, all of this is background to the moment this morning when I heard my daughter reading all on her own for the first time. Precious. I was beaming with pride. I opened up Blogger and started writing this post. Suddenly I heard her running and the bathroom door open and shut quickly. I could hear my daughter make her way to the potty. And then I heard these words: "Mom, I got poop in my underwear!" (It was just a tiny spot.) Ah, yes. The book so good you just can't tear yourself away. We've all been there. I guess the next lesson for my daughter will be that there are times when you just have to put the book down and take care of business. And then you can always come back and pick up where you left off.
These are the important lessons in life.