This past year, I wrote 5 little books for my 4 year old son.
If no other child in the whole world ever read them, it would be worth it.
Getting to see his grin.
Getting to see him focus.
Getting to help him learn how to learn.
When I wrote these, my older son had already learned how to read.
He has a natural aptitude for language and learned how to decode complex words quickly (comprehension came later). When he was a toddler and would say those cute things that kids say when their ears/brain/tongue connections aren’t quite all lined up just right yet like pasquetti or ibindent, it would only take someone telling him once the “right” way to say elephant and the adorable mispronunciations would vanish like morning mist.
My wife and I would purposely pronounce things the way he did so that he wouldn’t lose the cute way before we were ready.
A few years later, the 4 year old was ready to read, but the process has been longer. It didn’t “just happen.”
So I was looking for short decodable (sound-out-able) stories that he could read himself.
What I was finding either was too complex (Dr. Seuss was fun but just a step too far, for example; one fish, two fish sounds easy, but is actually a little complex) or it did not seem interesting (the word family red bed, for example, as well as other things available that I didn’t consider stories).
So I set out to write the first complete stories that my son could decode and would enjoy.
At first with our help.
And then reading on his own.
Two non-negotiables were: They had to have characters and a plot.
The third non-negotiable was that my son would enjoy reading them; there would be an element of delight.
So I thought about the things my boys liked: dinosaurs, dogs, penguins, pirates, sword-fights, races, robots, and colourful pictures.
And then I played with short short words until some characters appeared, like Bup Pup, Ug Slug, Ed Egg and Peg Leg Egg.
After that I tumbled words around in my head and drew pictures to go with them until they grew into 5 short short stories.
So I wrote these books first and foremost for my son.
And I also wrote them:
For the 4 year old, who, with a little help from a caring adult, gets a big ol’ grin on her face when she finds something fun or funny or silly in the book and realizes that books are amazing and she can read a whole one herself! … and then asks, “Can I read another?”
For the mommy and daddy who help their kid sound out the words and then high five their son after he’s read his first book all by himself … and who then reads it 3 more times on Skype over the weekend to aunts and grandparents scattered across the globe.
For the ESOL teacher who finds something about them that will help kids who speak other languages learn how to read English.
For teachers and parents who want to help the kids they care about learn to read.
For the kids who need a little extra help or confidence.
For the kids who are ready for the next step after their ABC’s.
Who, when asked, “Why is the bat flat?” Smile and answer: “‘Cause the cat smushed him.”
Who aren’t just decoding words, but are starting to read: to make predictions and inferences and grow comprehension.
Who are learning to love reading because they are loving learning to read.
[Photo by Sir. Mo]