I’m about to reveal a BIG secret. I can no longer count the number of times I’ve been asked how it is my six-year-old reads the way she does. It’s happened so many times that I’ve got a pat response, “Thanks for noticing. She’s a bright girl and quick learner with an annoying mother who makes her read aloud every night (mostly) and who reads books to her back.” I am sometimes still amazed that people don’t make the connection between reading to their children and their children’s reading development. “That’s it?” I have received that response so often that my daughter and I look at each other in anticipation of its delivery.
But, though I hold to the simplicity and beauty that reading to your children makes them readers, I also know I’ve had a little help. In the 80s there was a commercial for Calgon, a laundry product that got out ring-a-round-the-collar in a miraculous way. A woman asks the Chinese owner his secret to getting her husband’s clothing so clean to which he responds, “Ancient Chinese secret.” It is his wife’s announcement that they need more Calgon that lets the truth come into light. I feel I have an ancient Chinese secret myself that involves how my daughter learned to read by age four.
My secret is as simple and as accessible as a box of Calgon for cleaning stains. My daughter has been watching Leap Frog videos since she was just a toddler. The credit for teaching her letter sounds and blends and even silent letter ‘e’ is as simple as educational programming that is top rate. Leap Frog’s characters are well-developed and interesting, and though they teach reading basics, they are not boring in their approach. I can actually watch an entire episode of the Leap Frog videos without wanting to tear my hair out. My child feels she’s getting a reward when she gets to watch one (T.V. is very limited in our home), and I feel like I am getting a helping hand in teaching my daughter to read. I often just have to reinforce a concept she was already exposed to through Leap Frog.
We have tried other programs. I have several online subcriptions to learning sites some that I really like (Brain Pop), and some that I’m not in love with at all (ABCmouse), but nothing I’ve seen or tried has worked as well as the Leap Frog videos. I have purchased the DVDs at tag sales and thrift shops, and I have been thrilled to find many of them available for online streaming at Netflix. Leap, Tad and Lilly have been my partners in teaching my daughter to be an awesome reader. And, I believe so much in the value of the programming that I am letting the secret out of the proverbial Calgon box.
About a month ago, my daughter and I took her father to the doctor. I had never met his new doctor before, and when she came into the room before she greeted my husband or me she saw my daughter and called out her name. She saw the look of utter confusion on my face and explained that she had met my daugher on numerous occasions at her former school, and that my daughter and her niece (who is two years older) had been in the same multi-grade classroom. She then commented on how well my daughter reads, and she shared that her niece who’s in 2nd grade still can not read. She expressed her admiration for my daughter and asked my secret, and I told her.
My daughter has read books that the students I teach have not ever read. Her mind has been opened to big ideas and times and places different than her own. She has come to learn to love to read the stories and does not view reading as a chore. She might have a natural ability to learn quickly, but the outside stimuli she’s been exposed to have sped along her neural processes. I am a fan of the Leap Frog brand and have often said that if I ever leave teaching that I’d love to develop products with the company.
I do think the videos must be reinforced by teaching and teachable moments, but I recognize my daughter would not have read Anne of Green Gables without them. So, I am grateful for the quality products Leap Frog produces to enhance learning and development. I’m also indebted to the manufacturer for making the product not only super educational but also entertaining. I will admit they have provided me with a few moments’ stolen peace. Now the true test will come with my next two children to see if my hypothesis holds true. I might have my work cut out!
Get the Leap Frog movies on Amazon:
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