How One Smart Little Boy Learned to Read with Badanamu
It’s my great pleasure to introduce Henry to Badanamu Club. Henry is a huge fan of Badanamu Story Time. He is an adventurous, curious, and active five-year-old Korean boy. Every time I teach him, I’m amazed by how creatively he imagines Badanamu characters and his attitude towards the Story Time lessons. He loves Badanamu characters just as he loves his friends. He never lets himself waste time, not even a single minute out of our 30-minute class. He is always fully immersed in the lesson. After 10 weeks of Story Time, he can now read a three-letter word and even a short, simple sentence without difficulty. He has become a confident reader. I invite all of you to read his exciting adventure of learning to read with Badanamu.
“I think he knows most of single letter sounds, but how can I help him read?”
In January 2015, I met Henry for the first time. Back then Henry had just started to show interest in learning alphabet letter sounds in his preschool. This was when Henry’s mom started to wonder, “What’s next?” Thanks to his English class in preschool, Henry knew about 70% of basic ABC sounds. On the day I first met him, Henry and I had a trial lesson. We played Story 1 of Story Time Level 1 which focuses on the letters A, C, M, S, T. I saw him recognizing letters S and T easily; however, he was confused with sounds of other letters, like C and M. For Henry, I set two goals, mastering every single letter sound and then being able to read and write short vowel three-letter words. Badanamu Story Time was the perfect tool to accomplish these goals.
“Story Time is full of content that is great to stimulate children’s curiosity and interests.“
As everyone knows, there are lots and lots of reading programs. Among tons of options, why did Henry’s mom choose Badanamu Story Time? She says, “Story Time is full of content that is great to stimulate children’s curiosity and interests.” She believes Story Time is perfect for children like Henry who love to explore and discover things because it is designed like an interesting adventure game.
Fun and exciting learning with ‘Story Time’
One of Henry’s favorite days of the week is Monday. Monday has another name for him, “Badanamu Day.” One 30-minute class per week is pretty short, but it’s fun, exciting, and highly focused. For Henry, it feels nothing like the intensive reading class that it actually is. Let’s take a look at how he spends these 30 minutes.
Henry starts by singing and dancing to the Badanamu Pop song, “Badanamu Time.” This warm-up activity gets him in the mood for learning with Badanamu. After dancing, we spend about 15 minutes playing the Story Time application using the letter discs. As he plays, he naturally acquires and develops blending skills. When he completes a story, he moves on to the activity book. He either does fun phonics exercises or makes a paper craft like a dog or cat he has seen in the story. Lastly, he ends Badanamu time with dancing to his favorite song “Dino Bus.” Sometimes he chooses to have blending activity time instead of dancing because he loves to invent silly, nonsense words. It always makes both of us laugh.
To anyone’s eyes, it looks like Henry is just having a good time. One of the reasons he can’t wait for every Monday is that Story Time doesn’t force lessons to be “lessons.” Instead, it gives plenty of opportunities for kids to have active time using all their body parts: holding toys and playing with them, watching animations, singing, dancing, playing games, drawing, making a craft, creating words through playing with letters, and more! And all these activities have become “affective factors” in Henry’s learning. It’s not just learning something, but caring, loving, and spending time with Badanamu friends.
Affective Factors: Badanamu characters make children’s learning more meaningful
In a famous study, Rowe(1998)1 observed a group of sixteen 5-year old children and discovered an interesting fact about children’s learning. When a teacher read a story aloud at literacy center in a classroom, children started to bring toys related to the story. When a teacher had repeated the same storybook for a certain amount of times, a few children had brought their own toys from homes. While listening to a story, children put toys in their arms and sometimes they had a short imaginative play themselves with the toys.
As Rowe’s study shows, a toy can play a very important role in children’s learning and helps a meaningful learning take place. Just like children in Rowe’s study, Henry loves inviting one of Badanamu characters to his learning. His all time favorite friend is Bada. He sings and dances with Bada. He plays the Story Time application with Bada. He always keeps a Bada soft toy on his lap during a lesson. I believe this “lesson” might be just a fun adventure Henry takes with his favorite friend.
Besides Bada, Henry has some other favorite characters, Nemies. Nemies are little creatures Badanamu has invented to help young learners naturally acquire letter sounds along with their key words. What Badanamu has created is a new style of phonics program where children don’t feel pressure to study letter sounds and memorize matching letters. Instead, in Badanamu, children watch silly characters and listen to what sounds they make, and naturally remember that “A Nemie makes /a/ sound!” These days Henry is in love with Nemie K. As he watches “Meet the Nemie K” video, he imitates the sound of Nemie K and acts like funny K-K-Kangaroo! I can’t help myself laughing with a big smile on my face.
A Triumph after 10 weeks!
Henry’s love for Story Time continues when I’m not there to teach. Henry’s mom turns on the Story Time application at home when Henry asks to play. And it happens almost every day! Without mom’s help, he reviews stories himself and even teaches his 27 month-old brother while playing Story Time. I believe everyone wants to know how much he has improved after 10 weeks of happy, fun time. He can READ. With a little encouragement from an adult with tricky sight words, he even reads short, simple sentences. Henry’s mom says that it’s very clear to her Henry has built confidence in reading English words.
How do I know he really can read? Using blending skill, he can read any short-vowel three-letter words, even nonsense words he makes up. As you can see in the video above, he enjoys making up a word himself, and has created many nonsense words like ‘DOZ.’
It used to take at least 3 minutes for him to read a short sentence. But now, with very little help, it takes only 3 minutes for him to read aloud a short storybook. His learn and play time with Badanamu has really paid off.
Another surprise from Henry’s 27-month-old brother
“At first, [Henry’s little brother] was just watching Henry playing. Then he wanted to play it with Henry, and he did. One day, he just knows everything and walks around the house saying, ‘/c, c, c/’ and ‘/a, a, a/’ like the Nemies in ‘Story Time.’ “
While speaking with Henry’s mom, recently she started to talk about Henry’s little brother. She said Henry’s 27 month-old brother has mastered all letter sounds. After short conversation with him, I realized it was true. Henry’s mom was more surprised with her little son’s improvement without proper lessons. She thought he was just making sounds, and copying what his big brother was doing. Out of curiosity, she asked. “What makes the sound /a/?” and he ran to the playroom and brought the A disc. Conversely he was able to produce sounds when she showed him letter discs. That’s the time when she realized her 27 month-old son has really learned everything through watching and playing Story Time without lessons or help from a teacher. These days, Henry’s brother has his own Story Time play without Henry’s help.
“I never force him to learn something. If I see him bored and not interested in something, I stop him. I never force him to learn things in which he’s not interested. I believe that’s the least thing I can do for him.”
I believe that Henry’s mom has served a very important role in his reading success. From my time with Henry’s mom, I got the impression that she believes what her children like to do and what her children don’t like to do is really important. Her attitude towards her children’s learning makes her constantly evaluate what is interesting and not interesting for them. She knows that the more children enjoy and love, the more they remember in long term. And thanks to her love and effort, Henry has fallen in love with learning to read which is a gift that will grow with him forever.
Henry has just started his journey to literacy. I know Henry will continue to enjoy English learning. I hope he will always be brave and excited when faced with a challenge. It will be a long journey, but I know his eyes will always sparkle just like the time when we first started playing with Story Time or the first word he read all by himself.
I am confident that he will soon be a totally independent reader thanks to his time learning and playing with Badanamu.