Welcome to my life. It's a whirlwind of kids, chaos, pets, people, family, art, and being home (most of the time; I like to get out here and there). We unschool, so the unexpected is, well, expected...

Friday, February 12, 2010

learning to read, just one story....

My oldest daughter, now 15, learned how to read real books for real reasons at the age of 11. Before that time everything she did led up to what she is and would become, same as now. Here's how that looked:

Chamille has always been interested in good stories. She's told more than a few yarns herself and all of her playtime consisted of elaborate stories. To feed her love of stories we watched many many movies and read many many books together. When I couldn't keep up, we checked out books on tape and cd from the library. Book for book, she had acquired far more than most of her school aged peers even though she hadn't read a single book on her own. Her vocabulary soared. She used and understood words, she could comprehend what she was hearing and discuss intelligently the content of many books.

During this time of elementary school years, my daughter wasn't in school, we homeschool, actually we are radical unschoolers but we typically don't use that term with non-homeschoolers. There was no pressure to read and read now to keep up with the rest of the class. When she wanted to know something she asked, when she couldn't read something she asked. At a certain age, when she knew she should be reading on her own because all the other kids were, she couldn't find books at her reading level that had any kind of merit for an actual story. They were books for the sake of reading and they had no draw for her. We, her parents, assured her that she'd read when she was ready and that everything counted, and we'd point out all the things she could read, like signs and simple words here and there. We even put up little sticky notes all over the place with the word of what the object it was stuck to, like mirror in the bathroom. So that everytime she looked in the mirror, she also saw the word "mirror".

Now, Chamille was also a huge video game player, for all kinds, handheld, computer and gaming console. She found Pokemon when she was really little and to this day still loves and plays it. Video games have a lot to read within the games. She found ToonTown, and online MMORPG with chat feature. That game over all games was the single most significant thing that helped my daughter learn to read. She started to see and remember words because she needed to in order to communicate with other players, her parents included. Bit by bit she gathered words and remembered them.

During this time and influenced by her love of Pokemon, she became drawn to anime and manga. When she felt like she could, at the age of 11, she picked up a manga book and read it from cover to cover, in typical Japanese fashion from back to front and right to left. That was huge for her! She realized at that moment that she knew enough words to string them together and read a full book. And the rest is history, as one might say. She reads mostly online, but she's read a lot of books too, and not just manga, but "real" books.

One of the best things that came out of allowing her to read at her own pace and on her own initiative, was that she owned the experience and through owning that experience she came to realize that if she could do that, she could learn anything. We have never pressured her to learn anything at all, ever, and because of that, her ability to learn has remained intact. She is bright and inquisitive and interested in the world around her.

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