Let There Be Cookies
by Jan Pierce, M.Ed

Parents, in your heart of hearts you want your children to be excellent learners. You want them to pass all their exams, learn about any and every topic in the world and win all manner of awards. You want success.

Good for you. You have high expectations for your children. But heed this WARNING.

At the base of good learning is the skill of reading with comprehension. People will tell you there’s a shortcut to gaining these skills. If you only buy XYZ product, you can assure quick and easy reading skills. You don’t have to read aloud every day. No need to require daily reading of your school-age children. Just use that magic chart or method and you’ll be home free.

No, you won’t.

Reading is a complex skill learned in increments. Even the children who learn to read easily at age six or seven (or even four or five) have absorbed hundreds of bits of information about reading and books from the time they were babies. They’ve learned about sounds and letters and words. They’ve learned about words going from left to right and top to bottom. They’ve learned that words have meaning and that pictures help to enrich that meaning. They learned easily because all the pieces were in place.

The early reader is a joy to behold. But not every learner is fortunate to gain the skill without lots of hard work. Don’t be fooled by shortcuts.
Think about baking cookies. First you decide on the recipe. You preheat your oven and gather supplies: a bowl, measuring cups and spoons, a cookie sheet. You find all the ingredients you need and then you begin to mix.

You have a lot of things in place, but you don’t have cookies yet. You have faith for cookies and you can almost taste their yummy flavor and texture, but you still have some work to do.

It’s like that with reading. You need to read aloud to your child every day from babyhood on. You need to read with children as they tackle new vocabulary, new genre and higher levels of difficulty.  You’ll require independent reading minutes in addition to read aloud times and you’ll want to make discussions about books part of family conversations. You’ll allow a broad selection of reading materials from comic books to maps to poetry.

You’re building a literate home. There aren’t any magic pills to swallow and there aren’t any shortcuts. Go to the local library and check out books. Buy books for birthday presents. Be a role model by reading for enjoyment. Take the extra effort to allow extension activities for favorite books.

Baking cookies is a pleasant experience and so is building a literate home and strong readers. But it does take discipline and a bit of work. You can’t throw just anything into the bowl and get cookies. And, you can’t take shortcuts or leave out key ingredients either.

So just go ahead and mix the reading ingredients patiently and with confidence. Measure carefully and follow the directions well. Enjoy the process. Have vision for success. Your hard work will pay off in time. Let there be cookies!
Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and author of Homegrown Readers: Simple Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Read. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net.