After spending four months with my own rising first grader I feel even more acutely aware of what rising first graders are into – and need to remember to bring age appropriate materials to Joey. My daughter loves the Princess in Black and the Mercy Watson books – both are series of simple chapter books with bright pictures on each page. They are the perfect bridge to reading chapter books – supporting the young listener (or reader) with entertaining and action-filled pages along with the illustrations.
So, in my quest of always offering Joey age-appropriate materials, I brought a Mercy Watson book to his house.
Mercy Watson, for those of you who do not know, is a large pig that lives with her doting parents – Mr. and Mrs. Watson. Her next neighbors are not overly big fans of living next door to the pig, and frequently call the fire department on Mercy. Mercy herself is generally clueless and is usually on a quest to eat as much butter toast as possible. In other words, the books are fairly ridiculous, repetitive, very funny and exactly what every six year old wants to read and listen to. In my house we love Mercy, and I was hoping that Joey would as well.
It did feel like a risk, so I brought additional back-up books in case he lost interest in the chapter book. (Spoiler alert – he did not.)
The simple, repetitive nature of the book turned out to be perfect for working on our reading goals of answering questions about the story and talking about the text using Joey’s AAC device. What’s more, the print on the page is large enough that if I isolated a high-frequency word Joey is familiar with (like the word ‘look’) he was able to read it by using his device. He was very proud of his ability to do this, and the second day we were reading the book he indicated he wanted to read the book by selecting those high frequency words and then gazing at the book’s cover.
Within the context of the chapter book we were still able to work on all of the components we normally would use with a single read-aloud. We talked about who was in the story, what the problem was, and what happened first. It made it easier to work on making predictions because Joey is not yet familiar with the whole chapter book – each day I read it to me I am still asking him to make predictions on something he does not know about yet. With a pig getting into trouble there were multiple opportunities to work on prepositions, as well as labeling the emotions of the different characters as they react to the pig’s antics.
Joey laughed at the crazy pig and looked remarkably confused when I tried to explain that the character named “baby” is really an old woman. Not confused in a way that he did not understand – confused in that way every six year old gets when they first meet the character “Baby Lincoln”.
I am looking forward to diving more into this series with Joey. Every six year old should begin to learn the joy of following a story through multiple chapters and diving into a favorite series.