Tuesday, April 5, 2011

learning to read

There is probably some proud parental exaggeration in the tale, but apparently when I started school I had already read most of the reading books the school offered to the reception class (as kindergarten was called in the UK in the 1970's). My mum, an elementary school teacher, had already taught me to read before I started school. I was only four. It is true that I don't remember learning to read, I can't recall a time when I didn't know how to.

I have always loved reading. I'm a fast reader and a prolific one. I used to get a little disoriented by my reading speed when I would digest a mighty tome spanning several generations in an afternoon. One of the things I miss the most in my working mother life is the luxury of time to read for pleasure, and I relish my business trips. Those nice quiet plane rides are perfect places to climb into much anticipated new novels, carefully selected weeks in advance. I get inordinately disappointed if a book turns out to be rubbish, my reading time is so very precious now.

I'm the one showing off now, but of that BBC list of books that is often linked on facebook with the tagline "the BBC thinks that the average person has read 6" I have read 79. I've put the list below just in case you haven't seen it before.

I have assumed that my children will "inherit" my love of reading and my ease in learning how to. I should know better since I'm a biologist and I know that genetics is far from simplistic.  Geekygirl is five and a bit, and will not start school until this fall, as the American school system starts a year later than the UK. I started to get anxious that she would be late in learning to read. One of my friends kids, the same age, is quite proficient at reading already, her mum and grandparents having taught her themselves. I felt a twang of envy when I heard her rattle through her simple books. Geekygirl, though she loves books and being read to was not at all interested in learning how to read herself.

This friend had used a system of reading books from a company called "starfall" which have a phonics based approach that also manages to create books with a semblance of stories, Though it made me feel rather like an overachieving pushy parent, I ordered them. (This is not a sponsored post, I just liked the books!)

Geekygirl loves them. With these books, and a set of plastic letters that link together, she is mastering reading. I am getting such pleasure from teaching her, seeing her pride in herself when she sounds out a brand new word. I can glimpse the many many years of reading pleasure ahead of her. Books that haven't even been written yet await an audience of today's five year olds. Just think how much they will be able to cram into those little brains, all from reading. I wish I had more time to work on it with her though. She always seems to ask me "Mummy, make some words for me to read" when I'm in the middle of something. I don't feel like the world's best mum when I say "Not now dear, why don't you go and watch TV?"

Still, her begging me to teach her to read is better than me forcing her, so perhaps I have inadvertently created a good learning situation, since she has never been the kind of child who just does as she is asked! Even Geekyboy is getting on on the act. He has memorized several of the books and "reads" them to me with the same stilted manner as Geekygirl has when she is sounding out the words.

So be it nature or nurture, I'm hopeful that we will have a household of readers. I may be less delighted about this of when I can't get anyone's nose out of a book to help me out around the house, and when the kids lock themselves in their rooms with books whenever guests come over, mind you.

The book list. Let me know your favorites!

BBC Book List
Apparently the BBC reckons most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.

1) Look at the list and make those you have read bold.
2) Star (*) the ones you LOVE.
3) Italicize those you plan on reading

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen *
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible (most of it; catholic school)
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte *
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman*
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (I've read a few)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier*
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks*
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger*
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell*
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald*
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy*
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams*
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh*
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy *
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis*
34 Emma – Jane Austen*
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis*
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini*
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere*
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden*
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez*
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving*
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins *
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy*
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood *
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan*
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley*
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon*
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck*
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding*
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie*
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt *
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell*
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker*
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro *
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White*
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad 
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks*
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute*
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl*
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo*