Phonics is my absolute least favorite subject to teach. I just never seem to trust that it will work. Once a child can read, I’m home free. I enjoy all the rest. Reading did not come easy for my firstborn. I was ready to pull my hair out after the first year. Everybody had told me how their child completed half their phonics workbook and then they just took off reading. Elena didn’t.
She was my preparation for teaching my Africans how to read. It has proven a much harder task. Because of their small vocabularies (people weren’t constantly talking to or reading to them as they grew up), they have a hard time knowing when they’ve sounded out the right word. For instance, Maya sounded out “suddenly” 3 times correctly, when I finally said: Yes, that’s right- suddenly. You don’t need to keep reading it.
Maya looked at me perplexed and said: That’s a real word?
This has happened so many times that I finally realized that although she’s reading fairly well for someone who’s only been reading for 2 years, she still can’t read alone.
The other main problem (never mind malnutrition beginning in utero) is vowels. In Liberia, the vowels aren’t distinct the way they are here. I frequently close my eyes to discern whether Maya is saying the correct vowel sound. For instance, today she was supposed to read the word “bite”. She read what sounded like “bat”. I said: No, a bat is a small creature that flies at night.
She was insulted. She said: No, I meant “bat” like you play baseball with.
Most days I console myself with the knowledge that Maya will eventually learn to read fluently. But some days, I whine to Kyle: Why is the progress so slow??? What if she never reads?!
Despite the fact that I thought Elena and Chloe would never learn to read, they are both fluent readers. Why do I have to relearn this lesson with each child?