Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Learning to read without being taught?? What does that even look like?

So, as I've mentioned a couple of times, something has recently clicked for Sprout when it comes to reading. He's not quite yet a fluent reader, but from the perspective of someone outside the family he's made a jump from 'not reading' to 'reading'.

Sometimes I forget, surrounded by supportive people and other unschoolers as we are, that so many people just don't understand the concept of a child learning to read without being taught. I shouldn't forget, really, as even with all my confidence in my children learning best in their own ways at their own paces, 'reading' was the little gremlin that would most often pop it's troublesome little head up in the back of my mind and say, "But what if they don't learn??" And it's no surprise really, living as we do in a society where we're lead to believe from a very young age that reading is a Hard Thing To Do, and must be Focussed On, and Millions of Pounds Must Be Dedicated To Literacy, and We Must Start Reading Preparation Early...

So I thought I'd share a bit about Sprout's journey to reading, what it looked like, and what it didn't.

Kind of in order, but with a lot of the things ongoing and/or repeated, for a long time...
•It's looked like playing lots of video games (too numerous to catalogue, but special mentions to Minecraft and all it's modded incarnations, Portal 2, Lego Universe (may it rest in peace!), the lego website, Left 4 Dead 2, and Scribblenauts).
•It's looked like writing his name.
•It's looked, very briefly, like playing Reading Eggs. 
•It's looked like watching lots (and lots) of YouTube videos on the toys and games that interest him, and people that make him laugh (raucously, unabashedly, ear splittingly, wonderfully).
•It's looked like asking me what things say.
•It's looked like recognising logos.
•It's looked like recognising favourite YouTube channel names.
•It's looked like asking me to type things, and me doing it.
•It's looked like asking me to spell things, and me doing it.
•It's looked like building huge words out of blocks on Minecraft. 
•It's looked like asking me to copy and paste words and send them to him.
•It's looked like recognising words out of context.
•It's looked like mis-recognising words out of context, and having no qualms about asking me what they actually say.
•It's looked like typing signs on Minecraft with my help.

Then more recently...
•It's looked like typing messages to me.
•It's looked like reading 'That's Not My Puppy' to Moppet as a bedtime story.
•It's looked like picking up a book of nursery rhymes and reading it to us
•It's looked like reading plaques at a museum.
•It's looked like designing and writing a birthday card for a friend, and then dictating part for me to write.
•It's looked like choosing a book in the library and sitting down to read it, then choosing some more to take home. 
•But mostly, it's looked like playing video games, and watching YouTube videos :)

What it hasn't looked like.
•Until very recently, it hasn't looked like books. Not even a tiny bit. And even now, just a tiny bit.
•There's been no teaching. And I'm not being word weasely: we really have not, at any point, tried to teach him to read, or to get him to read. None of the things above were coerced; "Building huge words out of blocks on Minecraft" isn't another way of saying, "We asked him to practice his literacy on Minecraft and he built huge words out of blocks", it's just an idea he had while he was playing, and he did it.
•It hasn't looked like sounding out words.
•It hasn't looked like, "Well what do you think it says?"
•It hasn't looked stressful. 
•It hasn't been on someone else's timetable. Because of how we live our lives and learn here, there's been no rush to try and make him to read so that a teacher can hand out work. The motivation has been entirely intrinsic. 
•It's not looked like 'a thing', a separate-from-life, learning-to-read entity. It's been pretty hard to write the list above really, as almost everything that's happened in his journey to reading has been completely invisible to me, in his head, woven through his life tapestry imperceptibly. All I can pick out are the flashes of visible thread, the moments when I'm privileged to be shown a glimpse of a result or a part of the process.
•Most of all, it hasn't looked like anyone else's journey to reading. Every connection he's made at each very specific-to-him time, in each specific-to-him way, has been unique. 

I'm excited about and proud of so many things he does, but I think this stands out for me so much because its something that people are just incredulous of. Children can't just learn to read without being taught! The thought!

Well they can. And he has. And I'm so lucky to have been a spectator (and fulfiller of game and video requests).

1 comment:

  1. :) My eldest learnt with Mario and Pokemon, and my youngest learnt with Minecraft I lost my nerve somewhere along the way and started more formal lessons, thankfully I found it again for Joey. x