Reading is very important in our family. In my opinion, it’s the key to all other learning. Once you’re reading fluently, you are in charge of your learning. You can learn what you want, at the pace you want to learn it.
Which is why I’m so thrilled with Noah’s excitement at crossing that bridge now. He wanted to start with reading practice this morning, so I wrote a list of words on paper and had him sound them out. When he got to “carotte”, I was worried that he would be frustrated, but instead he laughed, “This word is way too long!” And kept grinding out the sounds.
He didn’t read it. I ended up telling him what the word was and we went through the sounds together. He often gets to the end of a word and pulls guesses out of thin air; or with a word like “classe”, he’ll pronounce the sounds in order, look up and say, “sac!”, reversing the sounds.
But all of this is secondary to me. You see, through a short six years, we’ve gone through a lot with Noah: sensory issues, impulsiveness, anger management issues. Reading is one of those hurdles that I imagined he would push off as long as possible, one that would frustrate him greatly, a skill for which he would constantly be comparing himself to his sister. But I was wrong. There’s joy in this boy’s eyes as he’s breaking the code, and when he’s stuck or guesses the wrong word, he laughs and tries again. That’s huge.
And more and more often, he is getting the word right. Because he’s in that space where he wants to do it and it’s a game. Those reading materials that a friend dropped off last week were a Godsend today. Noah devoured box after box of the Montessori pink series. (He wanted to move on to the blue series, but he needs a lesson on blended sounds first.) Even the girls stopped what they were doing to watch Noah—and we all learned a new word and got a lesson in using the dictionary (“if”, in French, is a type of decorative fruit tree—who knew?).
Leila was bouncing off the walls this morning, tracing a’s one minute and then cutting her paper to bits the next, but Zahra concentrated on writing a letter to her jida (Saïd’s mother), and then we packed up for her piano lesson.
Later, while Leila napped, Zahra read and Noah and I got to work on setting up an antique clock that my uncle restored and gave to us. It’s a weight-driven clock, nearly two hundred years old, and its clockworks are fascinating. We used a flashlight to peer behind the face, hung the pendulum and the weights, set the clock and listened to it strike the hour. Success!
The rest of Leila’s nap time was used up preparing bread dough and baking muffins. When Leila woke up, it seemed that she had shaken her morning distraction, and indeed, she wanted to do a craft. Not just once but six times.
The craft was to punch out stars on yellow paper and then glue them on black paper in the form of the major constellations that we had studied, using a white crayon to connect the stars. Leila was in heaven with every part of the process, but Zahra and Noah were entirely uninterested. Leila was in production mode and asked me only to write the name of the constellation on each paper, as well as her name.
We were having so much fun that Noah wandered back into the room. I told him that he didn’t have to copy one of the real constellations. In fact, the second part of the craft was to use your imagination and create your own constellation. Noah got to work on his Dragon Constellation. As soon as it was finished, he made a paper envelope for it, and like a map to buried treasure, he tucked it under his arm and ran outside. Leila made a Sea Monster Constellation, and I made a Chicken Constellation. Kids don’t get all the fun.
Leila and I played with the Magformers while Zahra went outside to collect flowers from the yard. She pressed them, and we talked about the different things we could do with them. She really latched onto the idea of making paper, so I’ll have to look into that some more.
After dinner, we finished the day by walking to the park and then, once tucked into bed, reading the second-to-last chapter of Harry Potter. While Noah might be a new reader, he’s been a longtime listener, and all three kids were on the edge of their seats. It might have been mean of me, but I’m making them wait until tomorrow for the final chapter. Good things come to those who wait!