Slow and steady: Maria's reading journey At four, Maria showed a little interest in reading. We squashed it flat under our enthusiasm. "Good! And can you read this one? ...No, I won't tell you; you can figure it out." Well, she didn't want to be made to work, or to feel small. She wanted to know how the story went, and we wouldn't tell her. So she refused to read. Soon she even claimed she couldn't recognise letters. I got the hint, and laid off. I waited until she was very keen to read, helping only when she asked me to. Meanwhile I read to her and answered "What does that say?" as often as she asked. The tears ended, and we enjoyed books properly together. However, Maria was well aware that schoolchildren her age could read. The fact her best friend had mastered reading as a toddler may not have helped. Being an only child was a problem too. She didn't see anyone else struggling to learn to read. Her parents made it look easy, yet she didn't find it so. Well-meaning relatives made matters worse. "How's the reading coming?" they often asked. They gave her dull educational games. "I got her the one that says it's for younger children," they said, "because she's behind." My six-yearold could in fact read the words "Age 3-4" on the box. She wasn't pleased.
At 6 1/2, Maria asked me to teach her to read, and we decided to set aside time every evening for her reading. She chose Oxford Reading Tree books both for the subject matter and illustrations, and also for the fact that she felt safe with them. She knew exactly how difficult a Level 2 book would be. She wouldn't be presented with too many unfamiliar words or too much text on a page. For her this security was essential. What little I'd read about teaching children to read had only confused me. So I just sat by. Every time she asked what a word was, I told her. This could be every word in the sentence. Soon she had memorised many of the books. She returned to them over and over. As she progressed cautiously through the levels, she constantly revisited easier books. She never "finished" with a book. I was very glad we weren't tied to a school system of being allowed to borrow only a few books at once, always at the "right" level.
Published on Mar 28, 2011