Sunday, 6 May 2012

A sudden audience

Imagine the frustration you would feel if you loved knowledge and you knew that the book with the beautiful pictures in front of you contained new information that you just couldn't decode.  This is the curse of having a reading ability that is lower than your knowledge and interest base. Then picture the delight of being able to create a book of your own that you could read and it linked to more advanced information that someone could read to you. And, to make it even better, almost 3000 people around the world have wanted to read the book that you made, too.

Freddie has been obsessed by dinosaurs and fossils. He has an exceptional knowledge of these for an eight year old. When I taught him last year he found reading very tricky yet his general knowledge exceeded that of some children twice his age. His frustration was palpable.

It was the day that he bought three more dinosaur books at the 'bring and buy' sale and accidentally missed his football activity because he was so absorbed in them, that made me even more determined to find a way to unlock the key for reading for his particular learning style. We read some of those books together and he told me so much more than those pages held.

Freddie is an excellent artist too and he brought in a series of pictures that he had drawn. He told me all about the creatures and I had to learn quickly. What was a meganeura and when was the palaeozoic era? He knew! I asked him if he would let me write some words to match his pictures.

Freddie was enjoying some of Dr Seuss' stories at the time and the combination of the rhyme, rhythm and repetition was both comforting and enjoyable. I decided to use this approach. As Freddie is a visual learner, he remembers words more easily by looking at their shape. He knows most of the basic phonemes but he is too impatient to spend time applying these and decoding words one by one. He wants to recognise words instantly. This means that he needs to see those words many, many times until they become subconsciously familiar.

I had to keep the vocabulary simple and repeat it often. His target sound at the time was e as in ee and ea hence the emergence of the 'pea green sea'. I came to admire the sheer creative talent of Dr Seuss and his clever manipulation of words and crazy ideas. Oh to be able to do that with such flair. Never mind, the book was written and Freddie loved it. He didn't find it easy to read and he needed a lot of help but it was his book. He had ownership and he wanted to read it

I used to upload How It All Began and, with a bit of tweaking, the result was very pleasing. Freddie showed all his friends; we put it on the school blog and he read it several times to Grannies and relatives. He felt proud.

That was it. Except, it wasn't. Freddie is writing another book now. I am not allowed to do the words this time so it is taking a lot longer but he isn't giving up. The other day, I wanted to check something in How It All Began and we were truly delighted to find that 2932 people have viewed it and 52 have chosen to download it. Not bad for a book created by a young boy who claims to hate the act of reading!

Freddie's latest obsession is tanks. I'm off to learn more about the Vickers and the Herman. What rhymes with Panzer?

Read Freddie's book here.

Anne Haas

1 comment:

  1. What a great thing to have done! You have given Freddie a wonderful gift and have been so creative in thinking of how to use his knowledge & enthusiasm to help him read. This is so impressive and inspiring and heartwarming!