This series of posts follows my seven-year-old daughter as she learns to read.
C has created a beautiful world in Minecraft with a pet shop, swarming with different animals, and a sweet shop with all sorts of colourful delicacies. This morning, I helped her put signs in her shops. These signs mostly say, ‘Cats for sale’, ‘Dogs for sale’, ‘Horses for sale’ etc. When she knew the word she would write it, and if not she would ask me. The first couple of times I wrote ‘for sale’, and after that, she wrote it herself.
Later, she suggested we play hangman. She’s seen me and her brother play but never played herself. I did the first word, ‘HAPPY’. She guessed some different letters, just getting ‘I’ and ‘E’ muddled up. Once she got the ‘H’ and the ‘A’, she figured out what the word probably said. It took her a minute to figure that ‘P’ must come next, then I helped her with the ‘Y’.
She is next to me on the sofa playing Minecraft as I write this post. I’ve left the post a couple of times to write things for her, such as ‘Fluffy’ and ‘Whiskers’, and I’ve read a few words aloud to her, including ‘robber’ and ‘patient’. I notice she’s written a couple of things herself, including ‘wolfs’ and ‘hello’. She has also commented on the names of other players, spotting when a familiar word like ‘cat’ or ‘boy’ shows up. She has written the names of a couple of animals herself. One has been named ‘Wolfy’ and another ‘Woofwoof’.
One of her big motivations to read comes from wanting to play Minecraft without my intervention. I help willingly, but I can’t always get there as quickly as she’d like. Much easier to sometimes just figure out the word.
She’s also just enjoying playing around with her knowledge. Her confidence in this is growing daily. This morning when she came down and I greeted her, she answered back by spelling out ‘hello’, ‘h-e-l-l-o’. She is pointing out to me what letters words begin with, and patterns she is spotting.
When we’re out and about now, I can see her looking intently at signs, menus, advertisements…the written word is everywhere. Every now and again she’ll tell me a word she spots.
The strange phonetics of the English language are creating lots of questions too. Why does ‘the’ start with a ‘t’, when it doesn’t sound like ‘t’? Why spell a word with a ‘z’ when a ‘s’ would do just fine?
At bedtime, she is working her way through a book about animals. This book has illustrations of dozens of different animals and some short text about each. She spends a little time on each page, looking at each illustration. I’m not sure how much time she spends on the words, but every now and again, she asks what a name is, or will have a go at reading the name herself.
I can tell that cracking the reading code is taking up much of her day. I can also see that she is gaining in confidence daily and that this is spilling over into other areas of her life. She has always resisted speaking Spanish, preferring to express herself in English. This week, she has spoken more Spanish than ever before. As though she is thinking, ‘well, if I can do this, I can probably do a lot of other things’.