Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Yoko Learns to Read by Rosemary Wells

Yoko Learns to Read by Rosemary Wells

Rating: 4.5 stars

I'm not a pushy type of parent.  I do my best to let my kids do things at their own speed.  Okay, I think I am lying a little.  Maybe I do push them to get dressed and put on their shoes faster...yup, I'm definitely pushy there.  But on the bigger things in their little lives, I'm not pushy.  Ben has told me, through his words and actions, that he is definitely NOT ready to participate in the moms-sit-on-the-sidelines gymnastics class, to get into another mom's car, to go to a friend's house without me, to put his head under the water.  That's okay.  He's just 3 1/2...he's got time.

But reading, I'm pushing.  Having Lorelei reading already is such a joy; that independence makes the house a little quieter, a little more peaceful.  And let me assure you: I like peace and quiet.  A lot!  Ben sees her and pretends to read all by himself all day long, and I know he's interested.  I don't think I'm annoying him with getting him to try to read, but since we read together so much, I am always playing reading-type games with him that I hope to motivate him, and build up his confidence.  Maybe he'll do more on his own or just continue to be interested while sitting in my lap.

Here are some of the games we play together:

  • Spelling out a few key words, such as "Y-O-K-O" in the book that one of these days I'll get to.
  • Looking for "B" on any page, his favorite letter.  (We talk about how letters build words like in this book; he likes anything that requires building.)
  • Talking about the sounds of letters while reading.
  • Finding books with onomatopoeias so that the words and sounds are alike.
  • Hunting for a word like "the" or "Yoko" or "book."
  • Letting him finish the rhyme in a book he's not heard before.
  • Using the picture to predict what words are in the text.

For Ben, I think the Pete the Cat books will be instrumental in helping him to learn to read.  He's memorized them already, so all he has to do is put the words in his head together with the words on the pages.  And, like Rosemary Wells explains in this sweet book, Ben needs to realize that words are like the faces of people--each one is different, each one is memorable.

In Yoko Learns to Read, little Yoko and her mom read the three books they have at home together in Japanese, but Yoko's knowledge of English words is limited.  At school her teacher creates a huge tree; students earn a leaf for the page when they can read a book by themselves.  Her friends quickly amass leaves because they can read already, and Yoko wants to get more, too.  With the help of more books from the library and her teacher's help in connecting the words she knows to words in the books, Yoko suddenly has that "a-ha!" moment and gets it.  She earns a new leaf, catches up with her friends, and starts to teach her mother how to read in English.

Sprinkled through this book are drawings that include beautiful Japanese paper that are cut to fit the cats' attire--kimonos for the mother, and more American clothes for Yoko.  A different piece of paper frames each picture on each page.  Unfortunately, it definitely is a more "girl-ish" book, not that I like to divide books into girl-ish ones and boy-ish ones...  But I think a boy is less likely to be drawn into the pictures and story.  (We still read it a few times together, though.)

One of the main reasons I like this book for Ben is that it teaches a way to read that is more realistic and the opposite of phonics.  Rather than sound out words and stumble upon a million exceptions like "PH," kids can and should memorize words just as children in Asia memorize characters.  All kids can do it, expectations are just a little different sometimes.  It's a journey, and I'm not sure how far along Ben is on his own path to reading.  Time will tell.

But I sure would love for his "a-ha!" moment to come before our long road trip to the beach in August...


  1. I love this post because you are giving readers (hello out there!) tangible tips on the ways that you are helping Ben become an emergent reader. It is second nature for you, but those practical tips are super helpful for lots of folks. Keep up the awesome work...we're reading out here (if only your blog!) xo