Her learning to read was something, as I recall it, pretty much of Miriam’s own doing. Of course, she was read to and we played word games at our supper table, but Miriam early showed an interest in reading as her brother was first learning to do so at school. While we played with sets of 3 x 5 cards of words with common terminal digraphs (e. g. gun, sun, fun), in our common area, she also learned her letters and some of the sounds the consonants make. Miriam’s view of her learning to read is this:
Miriam: I learned how to read from Hop on Pop.
Bob: you did? How did that teach you to read? I don’t understand.
Miriam: I started with the easy books and went to the harder ones.
My recollection is a little different, that she learned to read by sight a large number of words (about 100) from a set of cards I made containing all the words of Put Me in the Zoo. I recall a period of two weeks or so in which Miriam gradually mastered those words, after which she was vastly surprised to find herself capable of reading her brother’s first reading book. Upon completing that book, in the fall of 1976 (age 5; 6), Miriam declared herself a reader.
About the same time, Robby’s interest in the Second World War impelled him into a range of material Miriam could not approach. So the reading to them of common bedtime stories ceased and each began to pursue his interests. Miriam typically brought home from the library books by Syd Hoff (Thunderhoof, Who Will Be My Friends?), and read them to herself or anyone who would listen. Instead of sleeping when she first went to bed, Miriam carried with her a stack of Peanuts cartoon books and read them until she fell asleep.
SUMMARY: reading level at (6; 0; 18)
The second grade series of Dick and Jane books seemed appropriate for assessing Miriam’s reading ability and proved so. (1) In this examination, Miriam read fluently and with good comprehension stories from each of the three sections of the book. Her execution of exercises from the companion Think and Do book showed her awareness of how context selects between potentially ambiguous meanings of words and how idiomatic meetings of phrases dominate those of words.
Miriam’s typical word level error was substitution of a context compatible word with similar initial and terminal characters for words she could not read. At the sentence and paragraph level, her lack of knowledge of punctuation’s function led her into inappropriate divisions of running text. Such limitations, till overcome, would prevent her from reading more difficult material.
The material and the level of challenge engaged Miriam’s interest. The same evening at home she did exercises from the workbook and informed me afterwards. Over the next several days, Miriam read us parents bed time stories from the book and took it to school for reading to her friends in kindergarten.
Even though I do not attempt any significant integration of this material with a four primary analyses of this book, I conclude this summary with a sketch of her performance at 6 1/2 years.
Summary: reading level at (6; 5; 16)
During the six months of The Intimate Study, Miriam’s reading was dominated, and her own choice, by Pogo and Peanuts books (her mother owns an extensive collection of both). I could not, on the basis of her casual reading, judge what would best test Miriam’s capability at (6; 6). When we discussed the problem, Miriam characterized Friends Old and New as “easy bezy.” “Was it so back in April?” I inquired. Miriam answered that the book had been pretty hard for her to read earlier. We agreed that the solution to my problem was for her to select the book for her final reading evaluation. At an educational material supply store, Miriam checked out the sixth and fifth grade readers, declared them too hard. Examining the fourth and third grade readers, she selected More Roads to Follow (a book for the second half of third grade) as having a level of difficulty comparable to the book she used six months previously. Her judgment was verified subsequently; she proved able to read the book but showed some difficulty. The outstanding problems were with syllabification and phonetic pronunciation of unfamiliar words. I conclude that Miriam’s skill level had advanced by three half grades during the six months of our research. This is a significant advance about which I intend to make no strong claims. Although it is reasonable to say that “computer reading” shared center-stage with Pogo and Charlie Brown during the period of development, it would be rash to claim any special impact on her reading skill, as a following incident suggests while I was passing through a room where she was watching TV, I was stopped by Miriam’s question “Daddy, what does choreography mean?” Miriam had been reading movie credits. This extreme of lexical exploration argues that she was reading all the time.
1. Friends Old and New (book 2, part one of the new basic reading program, published by Scott, Foresman and Company) contain simple stories; the companion Think and Do book provides exercises in areas such as inference and context.
2. Book 3, part two of the new basic reading program published by Scott Foresman and Company.