Wednesday, March 24, 2010

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.

Let the sparks fly. She finally took an interest in reading. Yesterday. It has been months of slow progress... and then I tried something new: chocolate chips.

Ariana had wanted to read at a very young age. She wanted to. There was no real pushing or cajoling, she simply went from us reading to her to wanting to do it herself. At every road sign, she wanted me to stop so she could sound out the letters and learn new words (thankfully it was a very small town and there wasn't a lot of traffic.) She was spelling 5 letter words at age 3 ('plant' was the first.) I remember going to a birthday party when she was 3 and she looked up at the banner and slowly moved her eyes across it as she pronounced, "happy birthday". My cousins, who all have children around her age, were in awe, "How did you do that?" Well, I didn't do more than encourage, read to and with, practice and play with words with her.

Cut to 5 years later when Annika was 3. She started much later reciting the alphabet. She showed zero interest in actually learning her letters. I made up laminated letters and numbers for our morning 'circle time' we had at home. I was lucky to have her read through 3 letters before she tired of it and ran to play something else. But, we kept at it. And it was probably months before she could recognize and write her whole alphabet.

Colby started to be concerned. He thought she was somehow 'behind' in her progress. Or that I was somehow behind in my progress of teaching her. But I stick to the theory that you can't (or shouldn't) push a child to learn at such a young age or they will resent it. But it was an interesting nature/nurture debate since both girls had a very similar experience in regards to early learning. Theoretically I would have expected Annika to be more advanced at an earlier age since I was home more with her and she had an older sister to emulate. But, who knew... none of that really mattered.

It was simply desire (or lack thereof). And, while I certainly don't want to push her and stick to my initial response to let her progress at her own rate, there has come about a situation which might change the urgency. Annika is 4 with an October 7th birthday. The cutoff for kindergarten is September 30th. For all of you that have met her, you know that she is pretty much the most outgoing, gregarious child you will ever meet. I am concerned that if we wait until next year when she is almost 6 starting school, she will overwhelm all of the younger children and might have trouble making friends. I feel that if she is the youngest child, she might not intimidate the others and will fit in better.

Anyhow, there is a testing process that she will need to pass to get her into school so early and I can only imagine that it would include reading. So, in an effort to speed up her motivation to read, I resorted to... bribery. I know, I know... bad mom. But, you know what? It worked. And it worked well. I made the deal with her that for every word that she read, I would give her one chocolate chip. She fell for it hook, line and sinker. She went from not being able to read any words, to sounding them out and reading 3 AND 4 letter words. (Her first word she read to daddy last night was 'cup' and her first 4 letter word was 'spot')

That's my evil little secret. But, she is now reading. Who cares that once she makes it through War and Peace she'll weigh 350 pounds.


  1. Good for her! Maybe I should try that with some of my first graders...

  2. Awesome! My daughter just turned 3 and we've been working on the letter sounds. She gets bored quickly and wants to run off and do something else. I may have to try the chocolate chip thing, lol! :)

  3. I'm a parent of a six year old boy. I'm a follower of yours and i think your post is very timely. I lose my patience with my son and I feel he is becoming frustrated with me losing my temper, I need help.

  4. We really need to work on getting Tommy to recognize and read a bit more too. He loves letters but gets so frustrated when he can't do it right on the first try. I think I might have to try something like this for him (can I get a chocolate chip for every word he reads too?)

  5. WTG, nothing wrong with bribery.

    BTW, both of my girls have October birthdays. I am keeping them in the grades they are supposed to be. Meaning, Iz will start Kindergarten at almost 6. I just don't want her to be the youngest.