A year or so ago I wrote a post on my old blog about Star’s reading journey and how she was learning to read through life and her own determination. At that point she was 9 years old and was at a place in her journey where she could technically “read” but not at a place where she could read anything she wished fluently and with confidence.
Star’s learning to read journey has been mostly following an unschooling path. The only directed learning being when we were still homeschooling with a Waldorf curriculum and Star learnt the alphabet through Waldorf main lessons, and completed Waldorf language based main lessons when she was 7 years old.
I explained in my previous post how we have always provided our children with a home filled with a love of language. We adore books. We have always read to our children. They have grown up on picture books, fairytales, folk tales, mythology, poetry, songs, and books of non fiction. As Star and Bear have got older we have read longer chapter books and novels; Bear only recently stopping listening to Scott and I read at night (it has been a gradual decrease over the past couple of years) at the age of 15 years old. And they are surrounded by as many books as we can fit into our tiny house!
Over the past year Star has been sporadically continuing to advance her own reading ability. At times it has been difficult for her. She has wanted to be at that place where she can read with the ease and confidence that she sees the rest of the family reading with but has struggled with frustration and not being ready to read books that are at the level of her maturity. During this time, as always, we have supported and trusted.
Supported her by offering any help we were able to, in whatever form she wished. Whether that was listening to her read, helping her with words and sounds she couldn’t figure out, helping her with writing, spelling, and grammar, giving suggestions of books to read, visiting secondhand bookshops to look for a book she might like, encouraging perseverance without pressure or expectations, and always, always reading to Star.
Trusted in her. That she would follow her own path and find her way in her time. Showing Star our unshakable trust and certainty in her ability to learn to read with confidence. Reminding her we are all individuals, we all learn in our own way, and that it will happen for her.
To meet Star’s maturity and interest over the past few months we have delved deeper into the wonderful world of fantasy! Earlier in the year I read Star the ultimate classic of fantasy; The Lord of the Rings. This was so thoroughly embraced and loved by her, sparking a desire to learn more about Middle Earth and Tolkien’s amazing world. Star was gifted her father’s beloved Tolkien Bestiary, that was bought for him by his father, which she adores, and also his copy of The Silmarillion. We bought her her own copies of the three books, The Hobbit (which I have read to Star previously), and a Middle Earth Album of painted pictures which she treasures.
Star began to learn and recite songs and verses from The Lord of the Rings so we bought her a special writing book which she is using to copy down her favourites, pasting pictures torn out from a secondhand Lord of the Rings address book her father found at a tip shop alongside each song. She even began testing us on the verse of the ring, getting us all to learn and recite it! She is now using her book to write down poems from other books, learning them and reciting them for her own enjoyment.
Star watched the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies (looking away during the goriest parts), and we luckily found a secondhand copy of the old animated movie. We also gathered all of her father’s Tolkien books (Scott has had a passion for The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s books since he first read The Hobbit at age 10; The Hobbit being the book that began his lifelong love of reading) and Scott is currently reading Star Smith of Wootton Major.
Following on we read the Sword of Shannara trilogy by Terry Brooks which Star says are now her favourite books besides The Lord of The Rings, and I am currently reading to her First King of Shannara; the prequel to the trilogy. I have also entered into the absolutely Stunning world of Ursula Le Guin with Star; just recently having finished the second of the Earthsea books, The Tombs of Atuan. Ursula’s writing is so well-crafted, original, and intelligent, and Star eagerly awaits the third book. Not too long ago we also found one of Brian Jacques’ Redwall books The Legend of Luke at a secondhand bookshop, Star and Bear both really, really enjoyed this. Since then we’ve been keeping our eye out for more and recently found The Pearls of Lutra, which I have just finished reading to Star, was likewise thoroughly enjoyed, and Bear has snuck away to read himself.
I must also mention that even though we have mainly been adventuring in the world of fantasy, over the past few months Scott has also read to Star books by Gerald Durrel. Her favourite was certainly The Bafut Beagles; at night whilst I was getting Strong to sleep in the loft I would hear Star and Scott rolling with laughter to the antics of Gerald and the Fon (the ruler of Bafut with an insatiable appetite for alcohol), and the little animal characters. Star also enjoyed A Zoo in My Luggage nearly as much, and less so The Aye-Aye and I as it contains much less humour.
In the last couple of weeks Star has started reading Robert C. O’Brien’s Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh (a book I loved when I was young). And much to her delight and all of our happiness she is not finding it frustrating! She has been reading some most nights, has read more than she’s ever read of a book before, and tells me the title of each chapter as she reaches it. I’m so pleased she has found a book that is at a level she can fluently read and is also meeting her maturity and interest. I can see already that she is gaining in confidence and this is increasing daily as she reads with ease from books that previously she would have dismissed as too daunting.
Star has arrived where she is now through her self driven learning, in her time, and along her path, not according to someone else’s schedule and unrealistic expectations. I wonder how her reading would have progressed if she had gone to school; would she have been reading fluently earlier or would her self confidence and belief in her own ability to learn have been shattered. I am just so very thankful that we will never know.