Shortly after he turned seven, my son announced he was going to learn to read any book by himself by the time he turned eight. After wishing him well with his goal I returned to my own reading. A tap on the shoulder brought me out of a Paulo Coelho novel yet again. In a sweet voice and with bright blue eyes shining before he said, “You are going to help me … please.”
And so our journey through letterland began. The first two months were spent getting to know each sound. He made a plasticine model of each lower case letter and combined these with beautiful beaded capital letters. We used the letters as figures and played pretend games with them. Each letter figure became a character and these characters had voices reflective of their shape. Together, we made up a song about the sounds and names of the letters. One of his favourite games was to close his eyes, feel a letter and guess what letter he was feeling. He loved to make up his own sounds and was soon creating his own alphabet. During this time, full word recognition was minimal and I often wondered what was going on inside his head. There was no outside gauge for me to monitor but I continued with faith in the knowledge that right brain stimulation is essential for left brain tasks.
Around four months into our reading project he began to take a keen interest in reading road signs, packaging and other big labels. One morning, during the sixth month, I found Kairos sitting in bed reading a Dr Seuss book. An hour later he had read six Dr Seuss books, all out of his own. Another morning, during the seventh month, I awoke to find him in the kitchen with my painted sound cards spread on the kitchen counter and he was writing a story about a rock he found. His writing was beautiful and his spelling was ninety percent accurate. He was writing words like education! I was spell bound. Ten months after Kairos had made a commitment to learn to read anything he wanted, he picked up a children’s page novel, ‘Secret’s at Sea’ by Richard Peck and began to read one chapter a day.
This reading experience has empowered Kairos with the confidence that he can learn anything because he can read. His dad and I still read to him every night and will continue to do so as long as he enjoys it. At the beginning of this journey through letters, with my son, I was uncertain as to where he would end up in twelve months. I have no doubt that it is the foundation of the first two months of imaginative play with the letters that provided his future comprehension of language.