The Lemon Twins (and Dad!) Review ‘How Rocket Learned to Read’

Alison Morris - April 20, 2010

cricketandrocket.JPGLast month I introduced you all to blogger and stay-at-home dad Stephan Lemon, who wrote about the fun he and his 5 year-old twin daughters had reading Pink Me Up! by Charise Mericle Harper. This month Stephan, Cricket (in photo at right), and Sam have fallen for Tad Hills’ adorable How Rocket Learned to Read, which is coming from Schwartz & Wade in July of 2010
What books made your kids enthusiastic about learning to read? Please share!
And now, heeeeeere’s Stephan….
As obstinate as 4-year-olds can be it’s remarkable how easy it sometimes is to predict their behavior. This week I chose to review with Samantha and Cricket How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills solely because I knew it would spark within them a desire to immediately put pencil to paper and work on their writing and reading skills.
As pre-kindergarteners, this book falls right into the girls’ learning wheelhouse. As a parent, it’s a joy to find a book in which the main characters, in this case a puppy and a little bird, both hold the girls’ attention and get them excited about continuing their reading and writing “homework” in advance of their first year in school this fall.
As a stay-at-home dad, I hold impromptu learning sessions that my wife Sandy and I call “Squash Farm School” (our house sits on a former squash farm). These sessions help prepare the girls for the rigors of organized education while attempting to normalize the concept of having an state-certified educator leading them in their daily schooling instead of an unkempt, ill-tempered and emotionally pliable father dressed in holey sweatpants. Amazingly, it’s largely worked, as the girls are right on track. It is books like How Rocket Learned to Read that drive home the lesson and turn learning to read into fun time instead of chore time.
How Rocket Learned to Read introduces us to Rocket, a seemingly wayward pup whose interests lie in chasing sticks, napping and lazily watching the world go by. When he meets a small yellow bird, she attempts to get Rocket to take her class and learn to read.
It’s at this point in the story that Cricket points out that the teacher/bird has no name. If you remember, Cricket also noticed that the main character in the last book we reviewed, Charise Mericle Harper’s Pink Me Up, went unnamed as well. If our government had a “Children’s Book Characters Without Names” task force, Cricket would be its Tzar.
Cricket: “What’s the bird’s name?”
Me: “I don’t think it has a name.”
Cricket: “I’ll call her ‘Yellowy.’ ”
Me: “Thank you, Tzar Cricket.”
Cricket: “Huh?”
Back to our story. A turn of the page reveals that the little yellow bird — ahem, Yellowy — has hung a banner displaying the alphabet. “Ah, the wondrous, mighty, gorgeous alphabet,” she marvels. “Where it all begins.”
Here’s a tip for parents: When your youngster spies an alphabet, like the one on this page, have him/her recite it backwards. Not only is it educational, but hilarious as well. Then, for good measure, you should do it. It’s surprisingly difficult and it will show your kids that you’re not nearly as smart as you make yourself out to be.
The little yellow bird (Yellowy!) gets Rocket interested in her class by reading a book about a dog who lost his bone. At first the young pup isn’t happy as the bird is interrupting his nap, but he soon becomes entranced with the exciting story. It’s now that the little yellow bird sets the hook as she omits the last part of the story – CLIFFHANGER! – requiring an unsatisfied Rocket to return the next day to find out the ending. This sets the stage for the little yellow bird to begin teaching Rocket to read and soon the pup is learning his letters and learning how to use them to spell words.
Cricket and Sam found this part of the book fascinating, as the words Rocket is learning to spell are presented as uppercase and demarcated by hyphens – perfect for young learners to recite the letters and phonetically read them. That’s right! R-E-A-D T-H-E-M! Additionally, the words he spells are paired with pictures that give your little learners a hint. The girls loved it and their confidence grew with every word.
I recommend reading this book when you’ve got some extra time on your hands, as the girls’ excitement led me to pick out and read a few more books that promoted spelling and reading.
When it’s time for Squash Farm School again, I’m pulling out How Rocket Learned to Read to prime the girls for a stellar learning experience. Now go get on your sweatpants and let’s do some READING!
One final note from Alison: If your child is, like Cricket, a staunch believer in the notion that all children’s book characters should have names, I recommend getting your hands on a copy of The Pencil, written by Bruce Ingman and illustrated by Allan Ahlberg (Candlewick Press, 2008). ALL of the characters in this book get names — even the ants. And it’s a GEM of a read-aloud!

2 thoughts on “The Lemon Twins (and Dad!) Review ‘How Rocket Learned to Read’

  1. Kathee Kenna

    My youngest son was way too social to sit down and learn to read,at school or at home, so we made a deal. For every easy reader he read to me, I would read a chapter of a Goosebumps book to him. OUCH! but it worked! He became an avid reader and remains one to this day—he’s 22!

  2. fj6my

    I love these reviews, they make me laugh! I’m a children’s bookseller in Australia and even though these books don’t come out for months and months and months here, I keep my eye out for them! Thanks Lemon twins and Dad!


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