Woof, woof!

By Mir
February 22, 2006

At a rough guess, I’m going to say that we have no fewer than 500 children’s books here in the house. Perhaps more. There is no shortage of books around the place, is my point. And lord knows I have combed through the shelves and piles and pulled out the appropriate-level phonics books and tried in vain to get my son interested in fat cats sitting on mats and Tog the dog who meets a hog on a log.

About two month ago, I concluded that he would simply have to do his best at Princeton 1) in nighttime pull-ups and 2) with all assignments given orally or via pictures, because he surely will never read. Granted: he’s only 6. I’m aware that I’m a perfectionistic freak. But when you learn to read at 3 and your firstborn basically follows suit, a 6-year-old who doesn’t even WANT to read is like being served a fish that still has the head on. You know you can just try to ignore it, and/or work around it, but, DUDE. You’re trying to eat food that’s LOOKING AT YOU and that’s just not right.

[Yes, I did just liken my baby to this in an unparalleled display of excellent parenting. Excuse me while I go put some more money in his therapy fund.]

Well, we finally nailed the nighttime dryness thing, so hope springs eternal on the reading. For me, not for Monkey.

The kid just had better things to do, you understand. Plus he’s got a big sister who will happily read him whatever he needs. Why spend his time struggling with something that’s, well, HARD, and largely uninteresting (“Why do all of these animals have RHYMING names? Who ever heard of a dog named TOG?” I tried to explain but he was having none of it) when he could be scattering legos all over the house? Or making treasure maps? Or demanding that I explain to him BUT WHY did they cancel Teen Titans and when will I make it BE BACK?

Well, that’s all changed. HAHAHAHAHA. Just kidding!

One very small thing has changed, though. The deal in his kindergarten class is that every time you read a book, you get to add a circle to the “bookworm” on the wall. Every tenth book/circle, you get to take a trip to the prize box. None of this is new. What IS new is that a little girl was combing through the prize box this morning (having read her 10 books) and declared, “Oh, there’s Harry Potter cards in here!” According to the teacher, every boy in the class snapped to attention and ran to assess the situation. Usually the prize box is filled with assorted junk. But HARRY POTTER CARDS! Finally, a reason to read!

To hear the teacher tell the story, it was both funny and a little horrifying (why oh why do our boys need this as motivation??), and she wrapped up by explaining that all the boys had started reading with PURPOSE this afternoon. “None of them wanted to do it, before. Now they’re racing with each other.” She was not exaggerating. The classroom was abuzz. None of the boys knew how MANY cards were in the prize box, and they all wanted a shot at them. Monkey was right in there–insisting he bring home a book to practice, asking me to help him figure out how many books he’d have to read each day to get a card by Friday.

[Me: Buddy, you’ve only read 1 book so far. You can read… ummm… 5 tomorrow and 4 Friday. Or 4 tomorrow and 5 Friday. Or you could just play with the STACK of Harry Potter cards you already have at home, weirdo.]

[Okay, the last part I didn’t say out loud.]

Monkey selected a Biscuit story and we headed home, with him declaring that he was going to practice REALLY HARD so he could read 5 books tomorrow. And me–happy in delusions of progress–believing him.

Have you read the Biscuit books? They are RIVETING. Literature at its finest. Biscuit’s owner says something to him, and he says woof, woof. Then she says something else and he says woof, woof and does something he shouldn’t. Then she calls him a silly puppy and he says woof, woof. I can really understand why Monkey loves these stories so much, because you just NEVER KNOW what’s going to happen next. If you have Alzheimer’s.

Monkey and Biscuit and I sat down on the couch and I made an interesting discovery. I knew that Monkey’s favorite method of reading is to simply memorize a book and recite it back, because this is not actually reading and therefore tolerable to him. When faced with a new book he usually just gives up and wanders away. But today he was determined! So he sat there! And stared at that book! And read!

Sort of.

The discovery I made is that Monkey is loathe to sound words out, and in lieu of doing so he will just guess, based on the first letter of the mystery word. Which, I suppose, is not a bad strategy. But it yields things like him guessing “want” for any word that begins with “w.” Wait = want. What = want. Water = want. Whistle = want. And really, I was very patient the first 63 times he guessed something completely unrelated and nonsensical for words that he could very well sound out if only he could gather his wee testosterone-addled brain cells to GIVE A DAMN. But you know, he doesn’t and he didn’t. So I was guiding him through actually figuring out the unknowns, but then he decided that any word he didn’t immediately recognize would be “woof.”

… which pretty much made the rest of the book: “Biscuit, woof woof woof woof woof woof!”

Oddly, aside from my frustration with my adorable but illiterate son, that didn’t make the story much different.


  1. Nothing But Bonfires

    Seriously, Monkey has a point: who the hell names a dog TOG??

    Do you all have Letterland over here? My brother learned to read with the Letterland people and, at 23, still talks about them all the time. There was Hairy Harry the Hat Man! And lots of other people with alliterative names. I wonder if Monkey would like them. They were tons of fun. And none of them was called Tog. Or said woof.

  2. ozma

    You know, my brother didn’t want to learn to read until he was older and he’s a total genius. (Same deal–older sisters. My youngest sister didn’t just read to him, she even spoke for him. He just got lazier and lazier and didn’t say much.

    I hope I won’t offend you if I beg you not to send your kid to Princeton. NO! Not PRINCETON! Yale maybe, Harvard as a total last resort but Princeton? Ew.

  3. susan

    2 comments in 2 days! Ms. Information here. Allow me to amaze you with my experience. :) I studied reading at the time I thought I wanted to be an elementary teacher. That lasted until I was put in a class with 30 8 year olds. And my reaction was “just kill me now.” So I had to find a new profession. But I did take Reading from the best reading teacher in the universe. The important term is “reading readiness”. Children will not learn to read until they are ready. Mind you, not when the parents are ready but when the child is ready. It might be 3, it might be 10. That is observation 1. Observation 2 is you can help them find readiness by discovering a passion and then getting books about it. The child likes Harry Potter?… get Harry Potter books. The child likes legos?… get lego books. The child likes Pokemon? Guess what? Our teacher told us about a non reader ::shock:: 8 YEARS OLD! But she learned he had warts and then they read everything about warts and he learned to read. Hope it helps. Good Luck. Oh yeah, Observation 3. A child who learns to read at 7 will catch up with the child who learned to read at 3. Quickly.

  4. Belinda

    Dang, you nearly just got my insomniac butt in trouble when I snorted out loud at the Alzheimer’s line (which now that I think about it, shouldn’t really be that funny, but hey, YOU wrote it) and the last sentence, and briefly woke up Grumpy Husband.

    Woof, woof, woof.

  5. Mr. Fabulous

    Maybe he’ll be good at sports…

  6. chris

    woof woof. We have read about Biscuit the dog.

    My boys have done the same guessing with words. and I’m all,”It’s not a guessing game, each letter is a clue to figuring out the word. And, um leading to the treasure, which is… um, the book!” yeah they thought it was dorky too.

    I learned to read at 3 as did my eldest son. None of my other children have followed suit. I worried a bit that my second born was retarded, but he isn’t. Or at least not obviously so;-) Now at almost 10, he reads constantly.

  7. Jessie

    While I was reading at 3, my brother had a hard time reading until about 2nd grade and lagged behind his class until about 5th grade. Now, he’s still not interested in reading books for school but reads voraciously otherwise. And he’s pretty much a genius, so even if he doesn’t read his books for classes, he still aces them.

  8. Katie

    I just have to say it’s not totally a “boy thing” because my Emily is the same way (especially the guessing of W words). The problem is that she’s in one of those “we are a Blue Ribbon school and damnit all our children are going to excel!” So she’s really pushed and it pisses me off a bit because I think they are making it harder for to read instead of relaxing and letting it come naturally. But what do I know?

  9. Theresa

    I remember those books! Gawd how I hated them! LOL!

    It’s so nice now, because the twins can read to me!

  10. Aimee

    My nephew took a while to care about reading, but when he was about seven he got bitten by the story bug. Now he’s thirteen and my sister’s home schooling him, and he’s a voracious reader. Monkey will get there.

  11. Contrary

    Man, I had this long comment going detailing the differences in my children and when they started reading and who likes it more and yada yada yada.

    When all I really want to say is: WHY WON”T MY DAUGHTER READ THE HARRY POTTER BOOKS??

    The rest of us love them. Argue over who gets to read them first (that would be me, because I’m the one who buys them), and just generally cannot wait until the next one comes out.

    She waits for the movies. Argh.

    She’s not a reader, but she is an honor roll student who is thought highly of among teachers and peers alike. But still…Harry Potter!

  12. InterstellarLass

    My youngest is 7. She’s the laziest reader I know. She’ll see a word that starts with an “S” and the first “S” word that comes to her mind is the one she says.

  13. alice

    hee. reminds me of my brother (another late reader) and the flashcards that he and my mom used. She made them up, and would put dirty words in the mix so that he’d have an incentive to get through all the boring ones. His glee at getting to say ‘shit!’ REALLY loudly was immense.

  14. Amy

    I am so with you on the guessing game, aka: reading with 6 year old boys! My son is a world class guesser. Too bad there’s not a category and subsequent grade for faking out your 1st grade teacher – he would earn an “O” in that one!

  15. Zuska

    I have a soft spot for Biscuit because we went to a book fair when Mega Boy was 3-ish and was TERRIFIED of anyone in a fuzzy costume, and someone at the book fair was in a Biscuit costume and Mega Boy was brave and SPOKE to Biscuit and actually STALKED Biscuit for the entire day and we bought several Biscuit books to celebrate and the author was there…along with the girl who was the model for the girl-with-no-name in the books.

    And despite all that, I’m with you. These books are pretty dull. But still, Mega Boy loves ’em. We just ordered one from the Scholastic Club.

    I think Monkey’s motivation to read is hysterical, and I can just picture him sitting there guessing at every w word, lol!!!

  16. Gina

    Oh, I hear ya! I have one of those fish with heads served up in my firstborn. That was a slap!

    My second born is like me but even more annoying and my third is totally his OWN kid altogether.

    It’s painful!

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest