January 01, 2006

All By Himself

Nathaniel read a book alone for the first time yesterday.

Well, not a whole book. He read two stories out of Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad Together.

Like too many of our homeschooling triumphs, this was the result of a dispute.

Nathaniel loves stories: making them up, hearing them, and acting them out. He doesn't love reading. We speculate that in his mind it comes down to a question of efficiency: why should he struggle through a book, slowly, when he knows Mom or Dad could read it to him effortlessly?

Some other time I might address the various strategies we've used to coax, prod, and compel Nathaniel to read. Now we require him to read a book to us almost every day. If he refuses, we tell him to stay in his room, with the book, until he is ready to read.

Yesterday he refused. After twenty minutes alone in his room, he approached me.

“Are you ready to read now?” I asked.

“I already read it,” he said, trying to suppress a smile of pride.

I'm ashamed to admit I was skeptical. I quizzed him thoroughly while paging through the story myself, and he not only comprehended it beyond what the pictures revealed, but he was quoting some of the characters' lines.

It was a good day for literacy, in spite of its unpromising start!

(By the way, the Frog and Toad series of short stories is an excellent place for beginning readers to spend some time. The books do a neat job of reinforcing vocabulary by repeating phrases in the course of simple, natural dialog. The illustrations eventually won my son's heart as well, although he was initially put off by the earth-tone coloring.)

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