A reader emerges

I’m not tutoring today. It’s the last week of the school year for the two first graders I’ve been working with.

Reading about robots, Star Wars and science, the boy caught up to to grade level, which would have been second grade level in my day. He no longer complains that a book is “too many pages” or “too hard.”

The girl couldn’t read. She could sound out letters, but couldn’t put the letters together.  ”Mmmmaaaaattttt” would be “rug” on a good day, some random thing in the picture — “flower” –on a bad day. She never saw patterns. She’d laboriously sound out “cat” but have no clue about “sat.” And once I’d given her that, we’d get to “mat.” No clue.  She couldn’t remember the main character’s name — “Tam” — from page to page — and we’re talking about pages with three or four words on them. She seemed to think the point of reading was to say what was in the picture. (She was quite perceptive at analyzing pictures.)

She was getting help from the reading specialist and the teacher — but she wasn’t improving. Then, in April, she figured out rhyming words, aka “word families.” She saw the pattern.

An “emergent reader” is today’s educationese is a child who can’t read. When a beginner begins to catch on, she moves up to “early emergent.” I was so sick of that damned cat that I tried her on slightly harder books. She was very, very, slow and needed lots of help. But she stopped saying “sock” on the page with a picture of a sock, but no “sock.”

In May, she started reading at a normal speed in her “early emergent” books. She read five books in 30 minutes — with time to discuss the stories.

The teacher talked to her parents about reading with her over the summer. She’s going on to second grade — and she’s got a chance to make it. I can’t tell you how happy I am for her.

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