I never would have guessed that Mig the Pig’s Big Book would be both our downfall and our breakthrough. I never would have guessed that a little word like “gig” could bring a lesson to a standstill. And that “stopped”–oh, that vile, malicious little word–I never would have guessed that it could cause such trauma to my six year old.
And I never, ever, ever would have guessed that I would stoop so low as to bribe my son to read.
Bear slides into the chair next to me, looking suspiciously at the book I have laid out on the table. I chose it for our first formal reading lesson in our new house because he has been pouring over it for days. He drops his shoulders and sighs as he realizes what is going on, but I let it slide.
“How do you spell pig?” I ask by way of an introduction.
We are beginning a unit on farm animals that will last them the rest of their schooling as we slowly transform our lives here on this property.
“Pig”, he repeats. “/P/-/I/-/G/,” he makes each sound distinctly. “D-O-X-O-T-O-L-O-B!” he spells, triumphantly.
You’re silly, I say, tickling him. He falls out of his chair laughing.
OK, OK. It is P-I-G. P-I-G. P-I-G!
He gets back in his chair, still smiling as he reads, Mig the Pig’s Big Book. Just like that, fluently and with no prompting. I’m impressed. Not only has he not forgotten what we have learned so far, he seems to be gaining some confidence and is reading words rather than sounding out each and every letter.
That all came to a screeching halt when Mig had to go and take a ride in her gig. He looked at the word in disbelief, refused to try to read it, argued with the book even. I rested my head between my forefingers for a moment, breathing deeply, willing myself to not get frustrated. To not let my frustration show.
Deep breath. 1-2-3. Another deep breath. Suddenly, I realize his problem is not the word itself. I cover the picture with my arms and ask him to read the word.
“Gig,” he say with disgust. “It says gig, but that’s stupid.”
“Why is it stupid?”
“Because it is a chariot, not a gig!”
I try not to laugh and reassure him that the little cart can be called a gig. He recovers, if ever so slightly, and moves on until we get to “stopped.”
There, all sanity ends and he throws himself on the floor. He moves to his bed letting out a soul wrenching cry of despair. Dramatic, that’s all I can say, and the poor guy can hardly catch his breath.
And this is the problem we have with reading. He shows all the signs of being ready to read. He knows his letters, their sounds, loves word games, sounds out words, asks how words are spelled continuously. He loves word windows and word family strips. He inhales pattern books. He likes the familiar, the predictable, the comfortable. But he has a low tolerance for frustration and he falls apart as soon as he is pushed the slightest bit outside his comfort zone.
But he likes lists and charts and order and little boxes to check, too. He likes simple, straightforward goals that are easy to accomplish and come with clear rewards. He loved the Pizza Hut Book It program we were involved in for a whole month before my husband inadvertently threw away all the coupons.
So when the tears finally subsided, we made a chart. He loved it’s neat rows of boxes even before I told him what it was for. Especially his name at the top and the boxes that were big enough for him to write something in.
I told him he could put ten cents in each of those boxes if he did his reading without tears or complaints.
“Ten whole cents?! I’m going to be rich!”
“You can’t fuss, or whine.”
“Can we start now?”
And he took the book with a smile. Enthusiasm, even. He read well, if a bit falteringly. He wrote ten cents down in the little box and beamed. Then he went and got another book and sounded out a couple of words, just to show me he could.
So, yeah. I totally caved. I’m paying off my son for a little cooperation during reading time. But you know what he told his father today?
“Daddy, I can’t wait for my next reading lesson. I just can’t wait!”
Instilling a love of reading is probably one of my top goals for education. And if it costs me sixty cents a week, well, I guess I’ll swallow my pride and go with it.
Because he just can’t wait for his next reading lesson.
And someday, the reading will get easier and he will be able to satisfy his voracious appetite for knowledge in the pages of those books. I’ll worry about how to stop paying him later.