The Gateway Potter

Because there was no school for Victor last week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I had a chance to visit his living quarters and watch him do the Reading Kingdom. The program works best if a child does it when he’s not tired, hungry or distracted. Unfortunately, Victor was all three. We worked amidst typical early evening chaos as his mother orchestrated family dinner while trying to keep her two girls entertained and away from Victor so he could concentrate.

Despite the distractions, Victor completed a session and advanced to the next level in the program. In this level he encountered new material which at first he found challenging, but which he quickly mastered. He was pleased with himself for learning something new on his own.

“We never found out what happened to Captain Underpants,” he said, after completing the Reading Kingdom session.

He jumped off his chair and disappeared into the bedroom to get his book.

“He wants to read more?” his mom asked in amazement.

I was amazed, too. We had already worked for an hour.

Victor brought out the book and began to read about Hairy Potty, a character in the Captain Underpants book that is, as you might guess, a hirsute toilet. As we chatted about urinal cakes and other topics of fascination to a 7 year old boy, I reflected on how the Reading Kingdom was helping him transition from a reluctant to an eager reader.

Victor is still in the beginning stages of the Reading Kingdom and learning introductory skills that prepare him for the reading and writing that comes later in the program. But another major thing he is learning is success.

The program is set up so that the material a child encounters is very carefully selected so that he or she is only given a very manageable amount of new material in any teaching session – an amount that they can easily assimilate. This ensures that the child experiences success and avoids the failure that is rampant in most teaching and which terrible for children’s self-esteem and will to learn. This means that for a child, the Reading Kingdom is a world that is totally manageable, controlled and comprehensible. The intent is to create in the child a feeling of complete mastery, which is unbelievably empowering. I have certainly seen this with Victor and have marveled at how his experiences of empowerment and confidence so quickly spill over into his other areas of learning.

After twenty minutes of reading about Hairy Potty, Victor was tired and wanted to stop.

“Do you want me to read the rest of the book to you?” I asked.

He did. While I read to him, his sisters gathered around and listened too.

As I prepared to leave that night, Victor thanked me and asked, “Have you heard of the real Harry Potter?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have that book?”

Now he’s putting in book requests? Oh, be still my beating heart.

“No, but I can get it,” I replied.

“Can we try reading that?” he asked.

You know my answer.