As many of you know, I’m writing this from a fast-food restaurant in a small town in southwest Montana. We’re on vacation, and even when on vacation, the kids still “do school.” It’s one of the advantages of homeschooling…we can pack it up and take it with us.
This particular trip will stay in my memory as the week Bennett began learning to read. I think the accomplishment belongs entirely to him: but two things helped him along the way. His big brother Carter, whom he emulates in all possible ways, loves to read; and at the last minute, I thought to bring along the BOB Books, to see if he might be interested/ready for them.
It’s a bit of a mystery how Carter came to love reading. With him, I used a book that promised to teach reading in “100 Easy Lessons.” I was a beginning homeschool mom and I liked the idea of the easy lessons. Everything was set out for me and Carter; all we had to do was one lesson each day. It was a phonics-based program and while there were many things that I liked about it, there was very little that Carter liked. To this day, he calls it “that big yellow book that made me cry.”
He’s right. It was a big yellow book, awkward for his little hands. And it often made him cry, which no mama likes to see. It made me cry a little, too.
When we had the twins, and we later decided to continue homeschooling, I knew I wanted to try something different. I’d heard that children with Down syndrome didn’t respond well to phonics-based programs, and I’d had some early successes with Avery using a program called “Love and Learning.” Both Avery and Bennett became disinterested in L&L, though, and I needed something new.
My sister-in-law, and my homeschooling friend Phyllis, had both recommended the BOB Books. They are a series of short, child-sized books that introduce reading through simple pictures and gentle stories. The books are easy to read, and the black-and-white illustrations do not cause any distraction from the words.
I began reading these little books just a few days ago, with both Bennett and Avery. Each boy enjoyed sitting in my lap, and paid attention to the words and the stories. But with Bennett, I saw a little light in his eyes. One that I recognize from Carter. Bennett is beginning to understand that the squiggly lines we call letters can join together to make words that a person can understand and even say aloud. He’s learning to read.
I am confident that Avery will follow. My life as his mama has shown me that he accomplishes his goals in his own time, and I don’t think he’s realized yet that he wants to read. But he will. As soon as Bennett has mastered it, Avery will want to, too. Like in all things, Bennett is Avery’s sun and moon.
And more: when Avery was first diagnosed, there was a comment made about how sad it was, that Avery would never be able to read any of his father’s or my books. After I got over the initial sting of that comment, I resolved to do everything in my power to make sure that it didn’t come true. The BOB Books are a powerful tool to help me and Avery.
Because of this, I feel an overwhelming mama-gratitude to the good people at Scholastic, who have reissued the BOB Books. At our house, they have replaced the big yellow book that made everyone cry.
I have a set of BOB Books: Set 1, For Beginning Readers that I want to share. If you’re interested, leave your name in the comments and I’ll do a drawing when we get home.