My five year old is sitting next to me on a NYC
subway train with his cocked to one side, moving his lips as he makes the sounds of the letters on the sign he's trying to read. "Mom?" he says cheerfully, "what does M-u-s-e-u-m blank o-f blank s-e-x spell?" I tell him as I point to each word and emphasis the word "space" but my mind is spinning.
There's a museum of sex? Could I tell him the sex part refers to gender? It does. That's not lying, right? I'm so not ready to have the other conversation...Woah! The sign on the other side of the subway is way worse....
"Okay." He says happily.
That's it? I think.
"What does lots of Rrrrrrs and an A and an H spell?"
This is what learning to read looks like in our house right now.
Being somewhat obsessed with children's books
I took an excessive number of children's literature courses in college that led me to a few conclusions.
1. Children's books are pure joy for me.
2. My children will absolutely love to read.
3. Phonics is boring.
When we decided to homeschool for preschool
I thought a lot about how I wanted to teach our kids and when it came to learning to read I decided, like with most things, to expose them naturally.
In the past 5 years my kids have:
*heard thousands of books
*been naturally introduced to environmental print such as signs, labels and maps
*sung songs and been introduced to a wide range of vocabulary
And that's enough for them to learn to read?
Yes. It's the foundation.
*they think books are precious and full of information.
*They recognize that signs can tell them things.
*Without any formal phonics instruction they know that letters make sounds and combined they make words.
*They want to learn to read and they are figuring it out.
Can a preschooler learn to read? Sure. Some can. Some can also swim across a pool, do simple addition, construct their own experiments, name all of the planets, paint detailed portraits, or easily make a new friend. Every child is different.
For me, the question isn't: can a preschooler learn to read? For me the question is: are my preschoolers inspired to learn how to read?
I truly believe that we learn best when we are internally motivated so I believe that if they have the foundation and they are excited about the power unlocked by reading that it will happen.
Today, next week, in a few months - one day they will pick up and book and those pieces will really click into place. On that day, all the reading aloud, all the conversations about words, all the singing, and all the modeling will come together and I'll have a reader.
So for now, I'm happy to pass the time on the subway reading chapter books and inventing words with too many consonants. I just might distract them from that sign over there...