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reading takeoff

Books + Ideas, Children — December 2017

We have take-off with the reading! Helen was doing some of the words in the easier books I read her, but a couple of weeks ago there was quite an abrupt shift: now she's reading the books and I'm helping with the harder words, or when she gets stuck. The major constraint now is motivation, and how fast she gets tired - I can almost see her thinking as she puzzles out words. Her first books were Jenny's Birthday Book, a Read it yourself with Ladybird The Three Little Pigs, one of the Frog and Toad stories, and A Birthday for Frances. The last is a bit longer and harder, but she wants to keep going with it. (At pretty much the same time, I started reading the Iliad to her, in the Barry Powell translation, and she insisted I keep going... It's a bit surreal switching between that and a sanitised Three Little Pigs.)

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School has been a big impetus, pushing reading quite hard, but Helen's probably been ready for this for quite some time. I'm not sure how well it is working for everyone in the class, though. As well as systematic phonics first thing every morning, the children have been working through (in, I think, one-on-one sessions with teachers) a series of little booklets, aimed to teach common words and simple sentence decoding. These also come home for practice with parents, but I've avoided getting too engaged with this - we go through them once, which means we're currently doing a few minutes of "homework" a week. Helen knows, however, that one of her friends has finished 18 of the books, that another is at about the same stage as her (book 14?) and that some of the children are still on book 1. I can't help worrying that this is going to lock in (both for her and her peers, but also, however hard they try to avoid it, for the teachers) the idea that some children are "fast" and some "slow", when all this actually reflects is parental interest, chronological age (a year makes a huge difference at this age) and developmental "noise". (Though to the class/school's credit, they've never suggested any kind of "expected" learning progress here, and there's no streaming/setting at this stage.)


  1. Ben was given really unappealing Janet and John books to read for homework after we’d been enjoying Frog and Toad and other lovely books that are still loved , so I used to do it with him doing funny voices in turn to make it more palatable.

    Comment by Gabi — December 2017
  2. I don't think I read Frog and Toad as a child, but it is one of the great discoveries I made with Helen. It was our friends Nadia and Frieda who put us onto it; we've since given nearly a dozen copies of the Frog and Toad Treasury to other friends of Helen's.

    Comment by danny — December 2017

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