Archive for January, 2010

Did Ella Read a Word?

January 30, 2010 1 comment

The television show Word World was recommended to me by a friend a while back.  She told me that one of her neices learned to read early partially because of this show.  Ella has watched it often and it does seem to be good.  It even addresses some of the multiple-letter phonograms when the sounds of words are covered.  The characters and most of the objects in the show are formed using the associated word.

Yesterday during the introduction I swear I witnessed Ella read the word DUCK.  I hadn’t noticed before that when they characters are introduced the word comes on first and then forms the character.  DUCK came on the screen for about two seconds before forming the duck and during that time I believe I heard Ella say, “Duck.”  Could it really be true?  I tested her by showing her the word duck.  She didn’t read it, but she looked at the TV as if seeing if the duck were there.  Pretty exciting stuff!

Duck From Word World

 Here is a coloring page of the duck from the web site.  It is a great idea to form the characters and objects from the word.  It will be excellent practice for Ella once she starts learning the phonograms. 

Yesterday evening Ella chose a book and a comfortable place to read, as you can see below.

Reading in a Basket

 Ella is a little bit goofy, but I’m glad to see her taking an interest in books.  It is part of the process as long as children are introduced to books through consant reading and making sure there are plenty available. 

We are going to the library later today and totally surround her with books!  Last time we were there she was very interested in the computers in the children’s section so we will get her some time on the computer as well.

Favorite Books and Reading Behavior

January 28, 2010 1 comment

Ella has cycled through a number of favorite books over the months.  When a book becomes her favorite she listens to it repeatedly.  When she was a baby, her favorite at the time was the one to use when she needed to calm down or it was naptime or bedtime.  So far we have been lucky in that her favorite books weren’t ones we detested.  It was a close call recently on a counting book called Spookley about a square pumpkin.  Spookley and his fellow odd-shaped pumpkins gather until there are ten of them.  Fortunately, that book is difficult to find…

Below are the books which have served time as Ella’s favorites.

I Love You Through and Through was one of Ella’s first favorites.  It is a great book and is a joy to read.  It teaches body parts and emotions and we get to tell Ella how much we love her over and over.  While reading it to her you can tell she loves hearing that we love her.

I’m really happy that a nursery rhyme book was one of her favorites from early on.  This is a small but quality collection of nursery rhymes.  Ella likes most of the rhymes but Are You Sleeping? served some time as her favorite.  She lit up when she heard that one even in the beginning and would listen to it over and over. 

I mentioned Ten Little Ladybugs in an earlier post as the book that fell apart and had to be repaired due to the many readings.  It is a counting book that uses different animals to ferry away one ladybug at a time.  In the end they all are happy to be gathered in one location.

Biscuit Visits the Pumpkin Patch is Ella’s current favorite.  She loves dogs and Biscuit is a good little dog so it is an enjoyable book.  She likes another Biscuit book, but it is a flap book and Ella tears those up eventually so we are trying to save that one until she is a little older.  The remains of another flap book she enjoyed is around the house somewhere, but there aren’t many flaps left.  Must say, she was very persistent as she worked to tear out those flaps.

I include The Jungle Book not because it is a favorite, but because it is a good example to use to describe one of the behaviors Ella has started with most books.  She will point to items in books with the expectation that the reader will tell her what the items are.  This is the inside of the front cover and first page of The Jungle Book.  On these two pages she will point at each of the two monkeys (do monkeys really have hair from the 60s?), then each of their tails, then the bird and finally at the branches and leaves in the lower right corner.  And then she will do it again and again.

Ella’s visual vocabulary is really exploding as shown when we take our turn telling her to point at objects in the books we read.  If she doesn’t already know the object, she soon learns it.  For instance, in Biscuit Visits the Pumpkin Patch there are many vegetables randomly spread throughout the patch.  Today I found that she didn’t recognize the cucumber so I told her what it is and reviewed a couple times.  Later in the day when we read this book again, she knew it.  I first remember doing this with Lauren using the characters on the back of Little Golden Books. 

Ella isn’t saying many words yet, but when she decides to start talking more, all  this work should have an impact on her vocal vocabulary which then will help with her reading vocabulary.  This all leads to success in school.  As a former teacher in 1st grade and then 4th and 5th, I can attest to the value of being a good reader and the difficulties resulting from not being a good reader.  That is why I spend so much time reading with Ella and am passing on the experience through this blog.

One More Thing and a Bad Thing

January 26, 2010 1 comment

I forgot to mention one other thing that we’ve done to get Ella on the road to reading.  It is important for children to see others reading.  That way they know the family values reading.  Below you can see Hayden reading and Ella looking at a book.  This is something she has just recently started doing.

I was guilty of a bad thing this evening.  Not helpful at all on Ella’s road to begin reading.  She came to me with a book during the first half of the KU-Missouri basketball game and I told her in no uncertain terms that I was not going to read to her during the game.  I did later relent and read the book to her during halftime.  I’ll also make an effort tomorrow to read her a few extra books and some extra nursery rhymes.

Birth to 20 Months #2

January 24, 2010 1 comment

Quick review of #1:  Read to Ella in the womb, started reading lots of books right after she was born, recited nursery rhymes.

During this time we also sang the ABCs to Ella quite a bit.  Did some counting as well.  Basically, it is important to talk and sing and it doesn’t really matter what you use because the baby doesn’t care.  She just loves to have you close and making sounds.  We did quite a bit of gibberish as well, having fun with sounds and goofing around.

I also recited the alphabet-letter phonograms to Ella.  Over time you will hear a lot about the phonograms because that is what we will be using to teach Ella to read.  If you would like to learn more about them right now, visit

To Ella in the early months the phonograms were just sound a lot like all the other stuff we were using.  They did have a calming effect with her many times, though, when she was upset about something.  I would begin reciting the phonograms and she would calm down and listen closely.

It has been my hope that hearing the sounds of the phonograms over and over in the early months will trigger something when it comes time to learn them as part of the reading process.  I have nothing to back that up but didn’t think it would hurt to include them along with reading, nursery rhymes and singing that we were doing anyway.

I uploaded pictures of each of the phonograms to my phone and we occasionally go through them.  She seems to enjoy doing that for a while.  I stop showing them as soon as she loses interest so I don’t teach her to dislike phonograms.  That would be a disaster.

In recent weeks, Ella has been pointing at letters in words and expecting me to make sounds.  This is the beginning of her understanding that words are made up of phonograms and each phonogram has a sound.  One of the most important parts of learning to read is understanding this.

If you are not familiar with phonograms, I’m not surprised.  In my third year of teaching 1st grade I started using them after learning about them in a newsgroup on the web.  There was one person in the newsgroup that went on and on about how awesome they are for teaching reading (just like what I’m doing here!).  I researched some more on my own and ended up writing a grant and started using a program called The Writing Road to Reading in my classroom.  It is not too strong to say this was a turning point in my life not only as a teacher, but as a parent.  There is fallout even to today because of Ella and teaching her to read.

I was trying to hold off for a while exposing my passion for the phonograms in teaching reading, but it just forced its way in.

Hayden Reading to Ella

January 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Hayden is reading to Ella this morning even as I type.  They chose Ten Little Ladybugs, which is another of Ella’s favorite books.  That one was read so much it finally fell apart and Jennifer had to tape it back up.

Hayden Reading to Ella

Ella does have an advantage on both Lauren and Hayden when it comes to learning to read.  Her advantage is having a big  brother and sister to take turns reading to her and helping her learn.  Hayden has spent a lot of time with her teaching her the parts of he body.  They both will be able to help once we start teaching her the phonograms.

Birth to 20 Months #1

January 23, 2010 Leave a comment

This blog is about teaching Ella to read so it would be well to go over some of the things we have been doing since we found out we were going to have a new baby.  The first thing we had to do was get over the shock of having a new baby, of course.

Once I got over that and started to think about all that we would get to experience again as Ella grows up, teaching her to read was one of the early thoughts.  Being much younger and less experienced with Lauren and Hayden, I wasn’t nearly as focused as I plan to be with Ella.  The excitement continues to build as she ages and approaches the time when she can start learning the phonograms and reading.

The obvious first step was to begin reading to Ella en utero.  Reading is good for children so I figure the earlier the better.  There is a lot of discussion on the web about the value of reading to babies en utero. Here is a link to one page:   Do a Google search for reading en utero and you will see many more pages.

First Book Read to Ella

Once Ella was born, I started reading to her regularly.  If there is one thing that any parent can do to make their children better prepared for school and learning, it is reading.  It is not difficult and almost anyone can read picture books written for children so there is no reason not to do it.  I didn’t read any books to Ella in the hospital, but as soon as she came home, I started reading.  Snuggle Up, Sleepy Ones is worn and tattered now because it has served time as Ella’s favorite book more than once and has been read many many times.

I believe I have mentioned this before, I created the reading program and started this blog partially because I want parents to better understand how they can help their children learn to read.  The most basic and important thing parents can do is read to their children regularly.

Reading is great and is what I have always focused on most heavily, but nursery rhymes are fun as well.  The books we had saved from Lauren’s and Hayden’s childhood in anticipation of our grandbabies included a few nursery rhyme books.  I still have many nursery rhymes memorized, but the books came in handy as a refresher.  Hayden and I spent a lot of time together with Ella saying the nursery rhymes.  For a while we imagined ourselves hosting a nursery rhyme show on our deck with Ella as the host.  We talked about creating videos and posting them to YouTube, but never got that done.  Maybe we will do that once Ella starts learning them herself.

More discussion of this in the next post…


January 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Ella was born on May 15th, 2008.  She is a third child born about 11.5 years after her brother and 16 years after her sister to parents who never expected another child but were overjoyed at the thought off experiencing it all again.

This blog will be about the process of Ella learning to read.  The first two Boline children learned to read with haphazard help from their father.  While Hayden was learning to read, the process became more structured, eventually leading to a well-defined program.  The program has been commercialized to a small degree and will be used to teach Ella to read.

My name is Mark Boline and I’m the father.  There are many things to enjoy about raising a child, but watching a child learn to read is one of my absolute favorites.  As I mentioned above, Ella was a surprise.  I figured it would be many years before I was able to watch one of my grandchildren learn to read, and then most likely from afar.  I am extremely excited to be able to go through this process again with Ella.

Ella is 20 months old as this blogging begins.  I will write about what we have been doing to build a foundation for reading as well as describing daily activities.  The blog is planned as documentation of the learning to read process, but will include many personal observations as well.

As a former first-grade teacher who loved watching multiple children learn to read each school year, I would love for other parents to use the experience documented here to assist them with teaching their own child how to read.  The program I mentioned before came about through my desire to help parents teach their children to read and this blog is just another path for me to do that.