I was trailing behind the kids as they sprinted down the hill toward the school playground at pickup when a voice calling my name stopped me. It was my son’s first grade teacher and she wanted to share something with me. “I don’t know what happened or what you guys are doing at home, but Mareto’s reading and writing has just exploded recently!” She went on to share specifics about his sentence structure and more. I was elated and proud, of course, and tried to think of things that may have caused this sudden explosion of learning and growth. And then it hit me… Dogman.
If you’re not familiar with Dav Pilkey and his children’s books and you have a young reader/emerging reader in your home, get thee to a bookery! The bottom line is that he just gets kids like my son, because he once was much like him. As a young boy with ADHD, he was often in trouble at school and had teachers that didn’t quite understand him or how to engage him. Drawing comics became his creative outlet, and though discouraged by his educators, it went on to become his career path – leading all the way to the New York Times Bestsellers lists and a major motion picture! And Mareto adores his books, particularly the Dogman comics.
He first found Dogman at the library and then we purchased him his own copy at the school book fair. Mareto carried it around with him daily, included taking it to school with him. He dissolved into devastated tears when he thought he lost it on the playground (later to be found in his backpack) and we read from it just about every night. That’s how Mareto works – he finds something he loves and then he does it repeatedly for an extended period of time. Before Dogman, it was Mo Willems ( and still is on occasion) and we had to read those books over and over and over until we all had them memorized.
And that’s how Mareto is learning to read. He’s found books he loves and we read them together over and over and over. He draws pictures of the characters and copies sentences from the pages. He makes up his own stories surrounding his favorite characters and he actually wants to read himself.
Now, when we settle in to read together each night, he stops me often to ask about a word he doesn’t recognize or to have me point out a certain word I just read so he can see it himself. Watching him learn a knew skill is never not exciting and amazing to me.
The same method has remained true for every new step he takes, skill he masters, challenge he overcomes: find a way for him to connect with the task at hand by finding something he loves and is interested in. For reading, it is books he chooses and loves.
And the extra fun thing is that we get to do this all over again now with our daughter, who also has very strong opinions about what books we read. So, here are my kids’ current favorites…
I’m a Frog! (and all the other Mo Willems books!)
Fancy Nancy (really any Fancy Nancy Book)
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History (this one is new and we seriously can’t get enough of it!)
What’s on your child’s bookshelf?