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Need a publisher
- To: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Subject: Need a publisher
- From: "ElsaHaas" <ElsaHaas@si.rr.com>
- Date: Thu, 23 Apr 2009 15:50:40 -0400
- Thread-index: AcnETMTINhzFCDpuQhu6rvLxuYqqHQ==
I'd like to publish a case study about my own son.
Tentative title: My Son the "Late Reader".
Does anyone have a contact for me in the publishing world?
The book GNYS AT WRK (Harvard University Press, I think first published in
1980 and still in print) is somewhat similar, except for two things. First,
the author's child was in school and mine isn't (we homeschool/unschool).
Second, her book is about how her son learned to write, while my manuscript
is mostly about how my son learned to read (at age 8).
You can see a description of GNYS AT WRK here:
The potential audience for my book is anyone who might want to see a case
study of a child who was not pressured (much) to learn to read and did so
anyway (so that's not only homeschooling/ unschooling parents, but
professors of education, elementary school teachers, linguists, etc.).
My book would be unusual in that books by homeschool parents often mention
"late reading", but don't give many details. (They tend to say something
like, "At age X it just clicked.")
Following are some excerpts, all of them from the official homeschool
paperwork I filed with NYC for "first grade" and "second grade".
EXCERPT #1 ("first grade"):
Trying to "blend" letter sounds together leaves him dubious that such a
tortuous process could ever result in a word. He recognizes most of the
letters by sight, but sometimes confuses letter names with their sounds -
thinking, for example, that the letter "w" makes the sound "duh" (this is,
in fact, a reasonable error). He can copy letters with some difficulty, but
doesn't consistently remember how to write them on his own (saying, for
example, "Is the H the one with the line that goes straight across?") Since
we are unschoolers, we avoid quizzing him and do not require him to do any
"practice" at all. We are prepared to wait for Tyler to learn to read and
write in his own time, however long that takes.
I am not unaware of the controversy surrounding methods of reading
instruction. I recently read all or much of each of the following books: Why
Johnny Can't Read, Reading Without Nonsense, Reading With Phonics (Hay,
Wingo), The Reading Reflex, Why Our Children Can't Read, and Gnys At Wrk.
Before Tyler's "first-grade" year began, we had also tried the Bob Books (he
wanted me to read them all aloud to him, which somewhat defeated their
purpose); Saxon Phonics K (one video lesson on the letter "L", which he
never wanted to pursue further); and How to Teach Your Child to Read In 100
Easy Lessons (we didn't get through even one lesson of that).
In other words, we know what's available in terms of instructional materials
for reading, and we aren't denying Tyler access to it. But I know a number
of unschooling families in which a child didn't learn to read until
somewhere between the ages of 8 and 12, and the extensive literature on
unschooling (in the modern era) - dating back some thirty years - recounts
the stories of many more. In unschooling, "late reading" doesn't bring with
it the two disadvantages it might in school - the child isn't labeled, and
the lack of reading skill isn't an insurmountable barrier to the acquisition
of other knowledge. In an unschooling family (or in an unconventional school
like, for example, the Albany Free School), fluent reading is not always
attained in a gradual, linear fashion. Instead, there may be an "Aha!"
moment that leads to a rapid "catching up" to peers. Since many children
leave conventional school competent in reading, but hating books, we feel
it's worth the wait.
EXCERPT #2 ("first grade"):
I'm going to give a detailed description of Tyler's reactions to the
Chronicles of Narnia series, because my reading aloud to him may continue to
be the backbone of what we do for some time to come, and I feel the need to
justify (for the record) our indulging in it rather than pushing "phonics
In the first book or two of the Narnia series, Tyler spontaneously and
proudly picked out the words "Witch" and "King" and a couple of others (all
with initial letters capitalized, I think). After that, he stopped picking
words out (at least for my benefit). While I read, he sometimes balances
atop the back of the sofa, pacing back and forth along it, or jumps
repeatedly onto the sofa seat from the armrest. Even when he is still, he
doesn't often look at the text. This doesn't concern me, since it's his
enjoyment of the book and his developing comprehension that most matters,
rather than whatever he may be picking up about letter-sound relationships.
He occasionally asks what a word means, but this is rare. It happened, for
example, when Lucy was standing on the deck of the Dawn Treader (in Book 3,
Chapter XII). I read: "At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like
an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of
wings it was right overhead and was an albatross." Tyler immediately asked,
In such cases, I refrain from giving him "teacherly" hints ("Well, if she
can hear the whirring of the wings, what do you think it is?"). I assume he
wants the most informative quick description I can give him so that he can
picture the thing in his mind, right there in the gap that has opened in the
scene. So I just answer the question - "It's kind of like a seagull, but a
More often, he asks no questions at all and I can only assume he understands
enough not to want to interrupt the flow of a story with vocabulary words.
At one point (Book 4, Chapter XIV) the gnomes of the underworld are
hurriedly flinging themselves into the rift that leads into the depths of
Bism as it quickly closes forever: The text reads: "The chasm was now no
broader than a stream. Now it was narrow as the slit in a pillar-box. Now it
was only an intensely bright thread. Then, with a shock like a thousand
goods trains crashing into a thousand pairs of buffers, the lips of rock
closed." In those four sentences are two words ("pillar-box" and "buffers")
I'm sure he wouldn't know if quizzed, and another ("goods trains") he'd
probably never heard, though he might have been able to work out that a
goods train must be a train that carries stuff. But three unknown words in
four sentences were not enough to cause him to ask a question, nor to ruin
his enjoyment of the story.
I must have read phrases like "drew his sword" or "drew their swords" ten or
more times before he finally asked what that meant (he may have been
imagining the characters pointing their swords at someone, holding them up
over their shoulders ready to strike, etc.). Evidently he's adept at using
contextual clues to keep going. (See Appendix B for a quote on how children
really learn new words.)
How do I know that he really does understand much of what he's hearing, and
isn't just faking comprehension? There is no reason for him to fake it,
because listening to books isn't something he does in order to get out of
doing something else, (like filling out worksheets). Our lack of academic
requirements makes it possible to use his free choice of read-aloud material
as a guide to understanding what he understands.
Not surprisingly, Tyler doesn't pick up on everything a more experienced
I read (in Book 3, Chapter VI): "He [Eustace] saw two thin columns of smoke
going up before his eyes [.] This was so alarming that he held his breath.
The two columns of smoke vanished. When he could hold his breath no longer
he let it out stealthily; instantly two jets of smoke appeared again. But
even yet he had no idea of the truth. [.] He began extending his right arm.
The dragon's foreleg and claw on his right went through exactly the same
motion. Then he thought he would try his left. The dragon limb on that side
moved, too. Two dragons, one on each side, mimicking whatever he did!"
Somewhere in here I began nudging Tyler and making "Aha! Huh, huh?" noises.
But he remained convinced that Eustace was indeed flanked by two dragons -
right up until the author explained what was really going on.
EXCERPT #3 ("first grade"):
He does occasionally ask a question or make a comment that shows he is
learning more about letters and sounds. He asked (pointing to the ad for
EXO-FORCE, a series of Lego toys), "What does this say?" and then "Why does
it have a E instead of just a X?"
He held up an envelope from Chase Bank and said, "This says Chase." I asked,
"How did you know that?" and he answered, "Because I know the logo." But
then he added, "Anyway, I know what letters make the CH- sound." I couldn't
resist asking, "Which ones?" He had to take the envelope back and examine it
to answer, but did so correctly.
At the same time, he seems to have "regressed" in his knowledge of letter
names. Recently, in Brooklyn, he spelled out loud the words on numerous
signs to me, but inserted "I dunno" every time he came to a letter he was
unsure of. These included lowercase "n", "u" and "r" (admittedly
similar-looking), uppercase "N", and many others. I think that as he moves
toward sounding words out, he finds it increasingly difficult to hold in his
mind both the letter name and the letter sound. So an apparent "regression"
is really a sign of growth.
As far as I can remember, Tyler hasn't written anything at all this quarter.
Finally, Tyler's verbal skills are excellent, even though if you listen
closely (when, for example, he's trying to reproduce a set phrase), he still
says things like: "His own worstest enemy is heself." We avoid correcting
his speech, trusting that he will self-correct in time (and aware of the
notorious experiment in which children at an orphanage were induced to
stutter through constant correction of their speech).
EXCERPT #4 ("second grade"):
Tyler brought me a Pokemon card and said, "This says 'Armored Dragon'." He
was excited, saying he had figured it out himself. He was still excited when
I told him it actually said, "Armed Dragon." He argued that it should really
say "Armored" because the creature had spikes and plates. I wrote "ARM" and
read it to him, then made it into "ARMOR." I started to make it into
"ARMORED", but he grabbed the pen away before I had finished the "D." I
struggled with him for the pen initially, then caught myself and paused. He
began talking about the different words. I then held my thumb over the "OR"
and said that when I covered that part up it said "ARMED". He took the pen
and circled the "OR" and said, "Like that it says 'ARMED.'"
I explained that most people would cross out, rather than circling, to get
rid of letters. He started crossing out and ended up vigorously eliminating
the whole word. This was a mixed bag as an unschooling incident. I'm not
sure I backed off quickly enough - I may have caused the energetic crossing
out. But I did stop myself before telling him, "And this is 'FARM'" - I
wrote it on a fresh sheet of paper and in the nick of time decided to just
leave it on the table. He didn't notice it.
For some reason one day I noticed that he'd said "brang" (for "brought"). He
had in the past used "bringed", and I don't know when this changed. Thinking
back, I remember that on another occasion he'd said, "I seen it on TV" and
I'd almost corrected him - probably because this sounds like a disfavored
dialect to me rather than a child's mistake. After I stopped myself, I
realized that he had at some point moved from "seed" to "seen" - in his own
process of self-correction that will surely end someday in "saw."
EXCERPT #5 ("second grade"):
On one occasion (maybe because he was nervous and had been feeling pressured
to sound words out), he tried to sound out the word "a" (pronouncing it like
the "a" in "cat").
On another occasion, he pointed to the word "log" as I read The Call of the
Wild to him, and said, "That says 'ice'." I know he confuses "i" with
lowercase "l" and uses the length of the word as a guide, so this misreading
startled me for only a moment.
EXCERPT 6 ("second grade"):
One phrase he used recently got to me a little. He said, "But I am reading
better now, right Mommy? I'm out of the woods." I don't know when he picked
up that expression or whether it means "danger" to him. He added something
about the fact that there are bushes in the woods, but I didn't catch it
before he went on to something else.
January 14 or 15: He saw the work shift schedule for the Food Coop on my
computer and knew I was talking about which day was which. He said, in a
warning tone, "Okay, I am TOTALLY guessing this, all right? But I think that
says: 'Saturday.' And that says 'Sunday Only.' " (I'm not sure whether he
recognizes the word "only" on his own, or whether I had just used it aloud.)
January 17: His dad told me that Tyler knows how the word "war" is spelled
and thinks "door" should be spelled "D-A-R." Tyler said, shrugging his
shoulders, "English is totally crazy." His dad commented that the two words
were probably from different languages. Later Tyler told me that he knew the
word "war" from the computer game Civilization. I said, "Well, door is
spelled a lot like floor." Tyler said, "I know! F-O-O-R!" I said, "You're
missing a sound in there. How about the .?" [I made the sound "L" makes]."
Tyler said, "F-O-O-R-L." I said, "That sound doesn't go right at the end,
though." He guessed, "F-O-O-L-R." Finally I told him, regretting having
January 18: He came to me with his Pokemon book and said, "Does this say,
'Fire Maker Pokemon'? (It really said "Fire Mouse Pokemon.") A few minutes
later he came running back, saying, "Look, this is the same word here! It
says, 'Thunder Mouse Pokemon'!" (It really said "Tiny Mouse Pokemon.")
Later the same day: He asked what "infamous" means (when I was reading Cedar
B. Hartley to him). He asked what "inevitable" means (when his grandma was
reading him the funnies).
EXCERPT #7 ("second grade"):
June 22: I was busy doing my e-mail and Tyler wanted to get my attention, so
started trying to read (in reality, remember) words on the milk carton that
I had read to him at his request in the past. When he pointed out that he
could tell the difference between "carbohydrate" and "cholesterol" because
the former has a "b" in it, he pointed to the "d". I pointed out that it has
both a "b" and a "d". I then remarked that "cholesterol" is a weird word
because you'd expect the "ch" to make the same sound as at the beginning of
"chocolate" (a word he has recognized in the past). He said, "Oh, I know how
it works! Listen -" and then, running his finger along under the word, he
said something that sounded like "cohesterol", with a heavy, throaty
emphasis on the "h" sound. So much for my point about the "h" being silent.
I hope those excerpts have given you the flavor of the book. These days my
son (who just turned 10) reads (on his own initiative and of his own free
will) five-hundred-page novels like Firestar's Quest and Dragonrider.
Please get back to me if you have any publishing contacts. (I'm also
considering self-publishing, maybe through Lulu.com.)
Elsa Haas (in NYC)
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