Then came Betsy. Different child, different brain, different wiring. A brand, new experience. I no longer felt like the SuperMom of Homeschooling. Was I doing something wrong?
Betsy, who is every ounce as sharp as Anne-with-an-e, just processed things differently. Initially, though she loved having me read to her and enjoyed our family read-aloud times as much as Anne did, she was not inclined to watch the page and see what the words looked like. At one point, I noticed that rather than watching the page as I read, as Anne had, Betsy watched me, watched my mouth move as I read. Betsy wanted to hear the story, experience it, be a part of it. She was more auditory and kinesthetic than Anne had been, and so reading came to her in a different way.
With Betsy, I took the more traditional route of phonics rules and reinforcement, but I taught it with games:
- I made simple board games ("Read the word and move ahead three spaces.")
- I printed out Jan Brett's phonogram flashcards and we played charades with them. This was possibly one of the best things we ever did.
- I had her tell me a story -- she narrated it to me orally, I wrote it down, then had her copy it onto pages which she then illustrated. She then read her composition ("Jat's Bat" -- I still remember that the cover she made was decorated with glitter) to me again and again.
- We found Cynthia Rylant's Mr. Putter and Tabby series and Betsy loved it (and so did I.) We read those repeatedly, too, until she was reading them on her own.
This mixed bag of approaches worked, and Betsy began to read, and to love independent reading as much as Anne did. She just had to arrive by a different route, and I had to tune in to what would help her get there.
Today, they are both excellent readers and I don't think anyone would know which of them read "early" and which read "late" (and I'm glad that they didn't have to deal with such labels, which really aren't helpful and can be detrimental.) Though an "early reader" might make things easier on a teacher, the age at which a child reads isn't really important to the child or to her overall journey. She will read when she's ready, and when she's offered the right opportunities to be ready.