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Learning to read

Our older daughter learned to read by osmosis. We sent her to Friends Select School every day. Teacher Pearline, who was, at the time, the world's best kindergarten teacher, took care of her all day. We picked her up in the evening. Sometime between September and June, the kid learned to read and to love reading.

Our younger daughter's experience differed. We sent her to school every day. As luck would have it, Mr. Woo, her kindergarten teacher, was the best in the world as well. By May or June we realized that she probably knew how to read but we weren't sure. Well, she did read, but she had major issues with vowels that did not follow the rules she knew about. Those vowels infuriated and frustrated her and she refused to enjoy reading until those vowels learned to behave.

We launched major policy initiatives in an effort to get Esperanto or at least Spanish designated as our national language, but were rebuffed at every turn.

So, in cooperation with Grammi Roz (who, although retired, remains the world's best elementary school teacher) and Mr. Woo, we came up with a plan. It involved:

  1. Learning more of the rules (like about silent e's and other combinations of letters that force vowels to say their names);
  2. Memorizing certain words that simply won't obey rules;
  3. Reading fun books that we haven't memorized

That last, reading fun books that we haven't already memorized, is a hard one, since the child pretty much memorizes every book she hears once. Which is why we are fans of Green Eggs and Ham. The stupendous thing about Green Eggs and Ham is that it is full of twisty sentences, each of which is slightly different, but each of which has many words similar to words in other sentences. So our daughter (thank goodness) could not memorize the whole book. And we tried to be finicky, very finicky, about her reading every single word and reading it correctly.

Another trick was to read Green Eggs and Ham backwards. Well, not invert every word. But start at the last page, read the whole page and then turn left toward the front cover rather than right toward the back cover. Messing with the logical progression did not intervene much with the meaning of the story, since it is doggerel. (And, actually, given how fussy an eater our daughter is, ending with refusal to try the proferred food is more appropriate for her than "I will eat green eggs and ham...").

Here is a list of books we liked when learning to read (and, actually, we still like to read them, although now we like to read them very fast and, sometimes, backwards):

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