Friday, January 22, 2010

Hole, Woke, Open, Old, Toe, Oh

Hole, Woke, Open, Old, Toe, Oh: these are not tough words to spell. However, four of these words can either be spelled differently and/or have two different meanings. These are spelling words that our seven year old, first-grader grandson, Adam brought to our house last night to work on. Adam and Taylor were spending time with me until their dad and my husband got back from shrimp dragging.

As I made my World-Famous Chocolate Truffle Cookies, we three worked on these words, spelling them out, writing them down, and making sentences out of them. The promise of these decadent cookies upon completion of six sentences did the trick. There was, of course, quite a bit of stalling, talking about Indiana Jones, Legos, the Titanic and other boy-related things, but we finally got the job done.

This is obviously hard for Adam even though I tried to make it as fun as possible. So we also talked about how truly difficult the English language is to learn. I wanted Adam to understand it's not an intuitive skill, and to not get too frustrated with himself. I compared it to learning a new video game. He practices, he gets better. Simple. I don't believe he'll ever really love reading; it's not his "thing." But Adam's imagination and intelligence are keen and he will find his niche and brilliance elsewhere.

Taylor is much more intellectual at nearly ten years old and we talked about being from Africa, Germany or Japan and the difficulty of learning English as a second language. He said with great conviction that "he was glad he was born in the good old USA." He sounded like a pitchman and I had to a squelch a little laugh, and smiled really hard at him instead. He's so darned smart and cute, not that I'm at all biased.

The kids then settled into the living room with their snacks to watch a movie, "Major Payne" in the hour or so before their dad got home. As I listened to them laugh hysterically over every utterance of the word "turd," I worked on dinner pondering the construct of learning to read.

By the time I was five years old, I could read and oh so much more. That's the extreme value and utter downfall of being the youngest in a very large family; you are sponge to so much information. I was listening to Joe Cocker, The Beatles, and Petula Clark for music. Books were read to me and my next older sister, Leelee-Bop by Mom and older sisters. I was looking at Life Magazine and National Geographic, playing Super Spirograph with my high school age sisters, and hearing about Vietnam and everything else at the dinner table. And this is where Joni the Barbarian began.

At kindergarten, I wondered why I was sent someplace with so many stupid kids, and that's the God's honest truth. That first day, there were kids peeing their pants, crying for their mother, and then there was me. When the teacher told us to first outline our clearly outlined picture with black crayon, I distinctly recall muttering "I'm not doing that." That was for the dumb kids who couldn't color in the lines and it would make a mess. I was a teacher's nightmare, but thank God I was cute! No shit and no kidding; I saw what happened to the unruly homely kids. These were the days when corporal punishment was IN, baby! As it were, Leelee-Bop and I should have both been moved up a grade immediately, but back then they didn't do that stuff.

By the time I was in third grade, I was reading Anya Seton, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart and the like; Mom's romance and mystery novels. She tried to direct me to Charles Dickens, but I found him confusing. That's kind of funny, isn't it? She really must have anticipated quite a lot from me at eight years old. Dickens was where reading ability and actual comprehension fell apart. Anyhow, we had tons of books, including lots of Readers Digest Condensed Books. That's where I found Jack London's, Call of the Wild. Wow, what a book! I was probably ten years old when I read it.

"If we succeed in giving the love of learning, the learning itself is sure to follow." John Lubbock.

As I see Adam struggling like any seven year old to learn the written language, I yearn to help him more than I know is possible. I wish I could tell him how to fall in love with the written word. There is no explanation. Self-discovery is the only way.

"For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time." Louis L'Amour

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