Monday, May 21, 2007

Line 9 Powell!

"Line 9 Powell!"
"Line 6 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard!"

We were standing at a bus stop, waiting for a bus, and as each bus passed by, Tommy would shout the number and the destination. This not what I had envisioned hearing as I thought about my son learning to read. The sentences I had envisioned were things like "The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play."or "I am a bunny." Nope, not for our son.

And yet, given that Tommy has never been terribly motivated to read story books, perhaps this is not surprising. He is, however, very motivated to glean information from things like the weather page or bus schedules. If it's information you want, he's the boy to know. We drove to a birthday party in another part of town this weekend. We exited on NE 122nd Ave. When Tommy saw the sign for the exit, he announced: "The 71 bus goes here." He was right, of course.

Tommy has long been interested in information. Nearly every morning since he was about 3, Tommy has read the weather page with breakfast. We started this tradition when we were trying to convince him to switch from long to short sleeves one spring. "It's supposed to be hot today, you might want to wear short sleeves." "Why?" "That's what it said on the weather page." "Let me see!" So we showed him. And with this, a whole new world opened up for Tommy. He'd always been a bit disturbed by the fact that the sun would mysteriously disappear behind the clouds. "When is it coming back?" he'd ask when he was 2. "I don't know," never really satisfied him. He has always liked to know what's coming next. The weather page helped him be able to predict where the sun was and what was coming next.

In addition, the weather page has been a great source of functional literacy skills for Tommy. He's learned the days of the week and to recognize them in print. He's learned to read the symbols on the page (sunny, rainy, cloudy). He's learned to read the city names. He's learned to locate Portland on the map. He's learned to locate other cities on the map as well. He can point to where Aunt Mary lives, or where Grandma & Grandpa S. live or where Grandma N. lives. He's learning to read bar graphs indicating the high and low temperatures or how much rainfall we've gotten compared to average. He's got a sense that 80 degrees Fahrenheit is warm and requires short sleeves and maybe even shorts!

And now he's entering a new phase of literacy, one step closer to reading. And that step has been brought about not by basal readers or phonics instruction but by bus schedules. Tommy's best friend at school rides the bus to school every day, and often brings bus schedules in for the other kids to see. That has created a collecting craze among the kindergarteners.

Bus schedules are all the rage – we have a collection of well over 50. Tommy and his friend bring them in to school. They carefully color the white letters with marker. Tommy traces the route on the inside - highlighting the major stops in yellow and the route in red. And through this all, he's somehow learned to read all of the names of the streets and routes that the buses go on. Last night we were talking about the Number 12 bus. He announced "It's the boulevard bus. It goes down Sandy Boulevard and Barbur Boulevard." He's even progressed to making jokes about the names - saying "Marthin Luter King Jr. Boulevard". He's proud of the fact that he knows the difference between "t" and "th" and highly amused by the reversal.

As with everything, it's good to remember that there's more than one route into literacy. Some kids go the traditional route through story books. Others take the bus.

1 comment:

Maggi said...

That is so cool how he's learning to read!