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Learning to read #3

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

It's been just a couple of months since my first post about C learning to read by herself. Just like with our sons, I am in awe of her capacity to learn. In a couple of months she has gone from feeling like this would be really hard to being quite a fluent reader. She reads everything. At home, it's cereal packets, envelopes through the post, things that I'm writing, recipes, instructions for a game.. Out and about, it's notices about lost dogs, a sign at the dentist or supermarket, an ad on a bus...

And here's an interesting thing I've noticed. Besides her books about animals, which she is enjoying reading, she never picks up a story book to read. It might seem logical that she would use her newfound reading skills to read a book. But she's using them to work out the information she is curious about or needs to know. This means that she isn't reading books designed for 7-year olds, she is deciphering all sorts of things. Unlikely words like 'Borough Council', 'ingredients', and 'nutritional' are popping up. Some of them she works out, and others she asks for help. But I see how by not making assumptions about what she 'should' be learning, she really has no limits.

She has mostly stopped asking about what sounds certain letter combinations make. She seems to have figured those out. Now she naturally applies the rules whenever she finds a new word. If it doesn't work, she'll try an alternative rule she's come across in a similar word. If they all fail, or the word is just too long, then she'll ask for help.

As she learns to read, she is enjoying writing things too. These are mostly lists. She has started to make herself a to-do list for the next day (like mother, like daughter), then she ticks things off as she does them. If she can't spell something she just asks me to tell her the letters. I notice her questions becoming less frequent, and now she'll often just have a go even when she's not sure.

I was away for a few days in November and when she felt sad she would write me a little email. Since these felt private to her, she didn't want to ask her dad or brothers for help, so if she didn't know a word, she would just replace it with the appropriate emoji. Sweet reading!

I might post again about C's reading, but I think we're probably done now. She figured it out, and now she'll just keep honing her skills. But I think the two big take aways from this for anyone who would like their child to just learn this naturally, is that firstly, the real world has everything they need - unless they enjoy them, work books and specially-written texts aren't necessary. And secondly, when a child has decided that they want to know something, they'll figure it out. If we can make peace with that and let them explore and learn at their own pace, they'll get there easily, without tears or coercion. They're bound to experience some frustration from their own expectations of themselves, but all in all it's likely to be a joyful experience for all.

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