Making A-‘s reading visible through a book tree

A- loved Rosemary Wells’ books about Yoko. When we came across the idea of a book tree in Yoko Learns to Read, I made one for her. I painted a tree trunk on a large sheet of paper and told her that she would get one book leaf for every book that she could read by herself. It was a great way to make learning visible.

We started staying at home in March 2020 in order to minimize COVID-19-related risks. The book tree grew more and more leaves, marking our progress despite the sameness of our days.

At first, the book leaves mostly came from books we had recently read together, so memory probably played a big part. She sometimes followed the words with her fingers and she could easily correct herself if I pointed to something she’d forgotten, though, so there was probably quite a bit of actual reading there. Later on, she read books that we hadn’t read together in months, or books that I’d read to her only once or twice. There was even a set of beginner readers that I had put aside so that she could read them without having ever heard me read them. She read them all.

Reading has become part of her identity. “I love to read,” she often exclaims. After she finishes a book, she looks up at me proudly and says, “Book leaf?” We’ve been experimenting with letting her stay up late if she reads independently. She still wants me to hang out in the room with her, so as a bonus, I get to read, too. I still read to her during the day and at bedtime, of course. But she reads! By herself! I love hearing her.

It’s amazing to see how the books pile up. Here’s what it looked like in March and what it looked like at the start of September. It’s almost time to make a new tree, I think. It might be interesting to make a book forest.

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If you have a kiddo who’s just starting to read independently, you might also enjoy making a book tree or some other visible way to track their reading. Have fun!