M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Friday, March 07, 2008  

Young Reader

Trash and I have been worrying for a while about how we're going to start teaching M. Small to read. Both of us were pretty much able to read by his age, and it really gave us a head start in school and life (more on that in my case in a minute). Of course we want to pass that on. So how do you teach someone to do something? You remember how you learned yourself. But we can't do that because we were too young to remember.

Two stories about our literate preschool years:

One of us (I'm not saying which) had grandparents who didn't believe in the amazing three-year-old reader, until they came for a visit and the tot looked at their car and asked, "Grandpa, do you have a Con-tin-en-tal?"

And the other one became frustrated during a 1973 play date with other three-year-olds and said, "Mom, these friends are dumb. They can't even read. Get me some new friends." Alas, we were living in separate states at the time, or perhaps we would have gotten married even younger.

Neither of us remembers those stories, but they've been told to us so many times by people who do remember them that they must be true.

I know I learned a lot about reading from Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Trash did too. And if those were still on the air in an afternoon block, we'd be all over it. M. Small does get to watch some "educational" videos, but the problem these daysg is that in order to be marketable to an international audience, everything from Dora the Explorer to Curious George goes out of its way to exclude written words of any kind. This is particularly egregious in the case of the Blue's Clues episode where Blue and Steve put together a "newspaper" that tells all its stories in pictures, resulting in a travesty of print journalism that makes USA Today look like the pre-Murdoch Wall Street Journal.

Fortunately, he lately seems to be most drawn to those few videos that do seek to teach reading. Around Thanksgiving, for example, he became addicted to the "Grammar Rock" video Trash and I bought for ourselves back in the early 90s. He just about wore out his "Richard Scarry's Best A to Z Video Ever" (a title that makes me fear one day encountering Richard Scarry's other A to Z videos). More recently he's always asking to watch his Leapfrog DVDs about learning to read, and he never takes a bath without his floating letters. So he knows the alphabet, and the sounds all the letters make, and everything. And we read to him all the time. But so far the only words he can read for himself are "cat," "no," his name, and "USA." How is he ever going to catch up?

But enough about him; let's talk about me. I remember when I got to kindergarten, the teacher didn't know what to do with me when it came time to teach the other kids to read, so I got to crawl into this cardboard box in the corner of the room and devour books on my own. It was a pretty sweet gig, too, especially on the days she forgot about me until the end of the day. But then I showed my mom the box when she came for parent/teacher conferences, and the jig was up.

But I still think it was a valuable learning experience preparing me for real life. I mean, now I spend most of my day sitting in a box reading stuff. Yes, they like me to call the box a "cubicle" and I'm reading bidding and marketing materials instead of Beverly Cleary, but I clearly have the right temperament for it. Formative years and all that. How can I deny that to my child?

posted by M. Giant 1:44 PM 41 comments


I learned to read sometime between year 2 and 3, and my parents tell similar stories (I would read product labels out loud at the grocery store as we rolled by them in the cart -- kind of like a much smaller version of the guy in Forget Paris).

Anyhoodle, my mom said that I started out by reciting the books that she read me over and over, and then at some point started actually reading them. Sesame Street helped a lot, too (c......at...c.....at...c....at...c...at...c..at...c.at...cat!). Is Sesame Street out on DVD?

Good luck!

By Blogger Catherine, at March 7, 2008 at 1:57 PM  

My parents parked me in front of the same PBS rock block. The local stations would really be doing parents a mitzvah by reviving that.

"But so far the only words he can read for himself are "cat," "no," his name, and "USA." How is he ever going to catch up?"

Insert joke about presidential qualifications here.

By Blogger Sarah D. Bunting, at March 7, 2008 at 2:14 PM  

I learned to read before kindergarten thanks to the book-and-record sets that were big at the time. When my sister was little, they were book-and-cassette sets. Now I assume you would just sign M. Small up for a podcast.

By Blogger Unknown, at March 7, 2008 at 2:29 PM  

I'm a blog stalker and I love you guys, but really? You can't seriously be worried about him not knowing how to read yet right?
Let him be normal....

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 7, 2008 at 2:51 PM  

I promise M. Giant and I are not seriously concerned about this - we're impressed that he taught himself the alphabet (no lie - totally without our help). He even chooses the reading videos, because with the exception of Grammar Rock we would not pick ANY of the other ones, because damn but that's bad writing. And acting. And everything.

We have discussed the fact that we don't know how to teach him, though. We seriously learned from PBS.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 7, 2008 at 3:04 PM  

I learned to read when I was around three to four, and I do remember that it was something I desperately wanted to be able to do. If a pre-schooler can be driven, I was. And I had to do it without the benefit of Sesame Street, since we are talking about 1967-68. But I remember an endless repetition of "What's that word, Mommy?", and hearing books read aloud to me until I was reciting them along with my mom or dad.

I have heard really good things from my Nephew (17) about "Hooked on Phonics", though--he went from a book-hater to a voracious reader after his mom got him that when he was 9. And phonics was very big in my school during the first few years--I believe it helped me even after I was reading at a level way above my classmates.

I'm kind of glad to see that I'm not the only one whose kindergarten teacher was at a loss, though. Because of state laws, I missed the cutoff by a week and started when I was almost 6. At that point, i'd been reading nearly half my life, so I was a major pain to deal with.

By Blogger Dimestore Lipstick, at March 7, 2008 at 4:15 PM  

I also was an earlier reader (Sears! - I knew that one VERY early). I was worried that I wouldn't know how to teach my children to read, but it turns out they must have learned exactly how I did. They just picked it up. My 7 year old started reading at 3. He's in kindergarten now (we held him back a year) and is light years ahead of the rest of his class in reading and writing (math too). But his autism puts him a couple years behind socially, so it all works out.

My just-turned-3-year-old also seems to just be picking it up. I don't know. She's a little snotty with the 5 year old I babysit because she can read more than him (sort of like whichever of you wanted smarter friends). Of course, the 5 year old can't even recognize his own name . . .

I was also one of those kids with whom the teachers didn't know what to do. I was my own "reading group" for years because I was bored silly with what the other kids were doing.

By Blogger Bunny, at March 7, 2008 at 4:24 PM  

I'm-a have to go annonymous for this, because I'm going to sound like a twerp, but I did not know how to read when I was in kindergarten, I was still at the reciting books stage. However, I can remember desperately wanting to know how to read, and when it was taught to me in first grade along with all the other kids it clicked right away and within a few months I was caught reading Heidi under the covers at 10PM. By the end of the year the terrifying nun I had for a first grade teacher had me read from a big kid book to the fifth and sixth grade teacher in order to show off my mad skillz. So even if he doesn't get it the reading thing for years there's no reason to think he can't excel if he has a natural love of it.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 7, 2008 at 4:53 PM  

I would have missed the cutoff for kindergarten (my birthday is in January), but my mother kindly had me tested in, so I could start a year early because I could already read, and sent me to private kindergarten. I was still light-years ahead of the other kids as far as reading went, and was also thus a year younger than everyone else in my grade forever.
Impressive at age 5. Not so much fun at age 15 when everyone else can drive, or age 20 when everyone else can drink. :)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 7, 2008 at 4:54 PM  

Like Catherine (the first commenter), I was also reading by age 3 starting by memorizing the books my parents would read me until I could first "read" (recite) along and then apparently I matched the words up with what was on the page. PBS-wise, I was a diehard fan and faithful viewer of Sesame Street and Electric Company, too. (Never was a big fan of Mr. Rogers, though my sister was so we watched him daily.)

And yes, all of this gives me no clue as to how to teach the kiddo to read. We've been doing lots of reading by her sounding out the words in books like Hop on Pop, Go, Dog. Go! and Put Me in the Zoo. I have to say, I'm relieved when she starts simply reciting from memory because it goes a bit faster then. I just follow along with a finger and hope that she'll magically make the connection.

In the world of current PBS programming, two shows we adore here are Word World and Between the Lions. BtL can be a little bit advanced at times for pre-readers, but the kiddo loves it (we do too - they read great books and heck, it's set in a library!). Word World is sheer perfection. Love that show and it not only has helped the kiddo with her reading skills, but it has gotten her to practice writing words, too. She also loves to play the Word World games on the PBS Kids website. Our DVR recorded shows list is presently 73% full, and the majority of that 73% is episodes of Word World. It's a sacrifice I'll gladly make to dedicate space to Word World, instead of, say, Wow Wow Wubbzy or some other kids' show with no redeeming value.

I guess I was the lucky word nerd in my kindergarten class - they started a G&T program for the 5 of us that could read, and we got pulled out and taken to go play all sorts of cool games and do things like memorize all the presidents and VPs from Washington on down to Ford, while the rest of the class learned their alphabets and phonics. Good times! (Actually, some of the stuff I learned in the G&T program way back in kindy came in handy a few years ago when I was on Jeopardy, strangely enough!)

Anyhow, I know kids learn at their own pace and I shouldn't be stressing about it, but part of me is really hoping that the switch goes on and our kiddo is reading somewhat confidently by Sept when she starts kindergarten... *fingers crossed*

By Blogger Heather, at March 7, 2008 at 5:04 PM  

I'm afraid I've got to agree with the first anonymous poster above. I love your blog, M. Giant, and while it's wonderful that you and Trash were able to read at 3, it is also, believe it or not, really somewhat abnormal. The fact that M. Small is able to recognize his name, "no," "USA," "cat" and knows the alphabet sounds at 3 is actually quite impressive! I know that you're joking around about wanting him to be able to read, but he'll be fine, ultimately. He sounds bright, and take it from my experience: I was a precocious young kid in every sense of the word (I came home furious on the first day of kindergarten because they didn't teach me how to read THAT VERY DAY) who nevertheless was not literate at 4, and I caught up mighty quick, reading on a college level by the 5th grade. If I could get there from where I was, imagine M. Small's potential! There's actually no set, universally-accepted method for teaching pre-K and kindergarteners to read, so don't feel down on yourselves. The number 1 predictor of success in school - and literacy, obviously - is living in a home where read-alouds are frequent and there is ample access to books and other print media. M. Small is not behind the curve: he's actually slightly ahead.

And, p.s., this is coming from a preschool teacher with an MS.Ed., if that eases your mind any! :)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 7, 2008 at 5:15 PM  

"Sesame Street Old School" is out on DVD. I know this because I am 38 years old and asked for it for Christmas. (I, too, watched the same 1-2-3 punch of Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and the Electric Company--and then, later, 321 Contact, with its funkalicious theme song--and I read at 3. What is it about us 1970 kids?!?)

Actually, you can also get The Electric Company--all of it, or a "best of" DVD.

None of this is cheap, but maybe M. Small's wish list could include it?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 7, 2008 at 5:17 PM  

P.S. I think I learned to read quickly because (a) my parents read to me lot and (b) I was a quiet, coziness-motivated kid to whom the idea of sitting and looking at books appealed. I'm not sure how much Sesame Street really had to do with it, though it couldn't have hurt.

Also, speaking of current kid TV avoiding reading, I checked in on Sesame Street a couple of years ago when I was home sick, and I saw that Elmo's world (feh!) had taken over a huge block of the show. It seems that whenever Elmo wants to learn about something--say, trains--he squeals, "Let's look at the train channel!" That is, he goes to TV, not to books, to learn. Gah! Another reason to loathe Elmo.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 7, 2008 at 5:23 PM  

I have the same problem of not remembering learning to read. One really cool thing we found was starfall.com
It's a neat site that is all about pre-reading and new reader skills. Our daughter gets 10 minutes of computer time a day and we have to drag her off of that site. She's not reading but it has some really fun activities to get kids into reading readiness without being boring or branded or annoying.
Between the Lions is a show kind of in the Sesame Street vein. And it's all about reading.
It's funny I never thought about the no words on shows until you said that!

By Blogger naginata, at March 7, 2008 at 6:02 PM  

I loved reading this because I am in the exact same boat -- learned to read so early that I don't remember /learning/, I only remember /knowing how/ -- and I've been wondering how to teach my son. And? I thought I was excessively weird for wondering so early, so thanks for letting me know that you are also excessively weird.

Seriously, though -- my kid and I read books together and he knows his alphabet, but I'm not sure how to transmit the idea that those letters make sounds which, when combined, make words. I don't know how to explain that the "A" in the alphabet is the "A" on the page, and that sometimes it doesn't say "ay" but instead says "ah," and when you put it next to a "b" it makes "ab" unless there's an "e" at the end, in which case it makes "abe," and... ack! (Which is a whole 'nother set of sounds and letters to identify, associate, and explain. Sheesh.)

If you figure it out, you should let the entire Internet know so that I can horn in. Little Einsteins are no help here.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 7, 2008 at 8:55 PM  

Y'know, i actually DO have a memory of learning to read. The timing is not precise. It was before i went to kindergarten, but since i have a Nov birthday and wasn't tested in, i was nearly 6 before i started kindergarten anyway so that isn't saying much.

Anyhow, i have a memory of my older sister telling me one day "you're going to read this book so we can show daddy when he comes home." It was a version of the tortoise & the hare. Presumably i'd been sounding things out and *almost* reading for a while before this, but i hadn't actually made it all the way through a story. I remember that it was hard and i wanted to quit but she wouldn't let me. However, i did eventually get through it and i was incredibly proud of myself.

My sister doesn't remember this ever happening, of course -- not such a big deal for her, i guess. :-)

So, i don't think i read especially early, but when i started i took off. I have ANOTHER memory of 1st grade where i was too far ahead of the "reader" the class was using so my teacher had me picking books from the random assortment of regular books on the shelf in the classroom and reading them out loud to her. The reading part was easy but not the "out loud" part. Especially when i accidentally chose a book about flowers that featured some chrysanthemums. Did i mention i used to lisp? oy.

By Blogger Unknown, at March 7, 2008 at 8:55 PM  

I teach reading and about to go on a technical dork-out.
If M. Small knows his alphabet, start working on sounds the letters make (not just names). Then start working on combinations (o+i sounds like "oy", e+r sounds like "ur"). Next go from combos to short "sight" words or words that he can memorize and read immediately by sight (he already has a few that you mentioned). Finally, using the letter sounds he knows + combinations + sight words, you can move on to rhyming words (EG, I know C-A-T is cat.. "H" makes the "huh" sound... "huh-at.. hat!").

Then sign him up for the GRE.. maybe he works best under pressure? :)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 7, 2008 at 9:07 PM  

naginata beat me to it, but I have to echo huge kudos for starfall.com. It is a GREAT site, run by a non-profit, that my 2 year old adores.

I just found some online stories on it (we are usually in the ABCs), and now she is telling me about Atalanta and Pegasus - so cool.

- JeniMull

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 7, 2008 at 9:20 PM  

"...the teacher didn't know what to do with me when it came time to teach the other kids to read, so I got to crawl into this cardboard box in the corner of the room and devour books on my own."

Oh my god, I did the exact same thing. Thank god for that box, is all I can say. I was always pissed when I found it occupied by some kid who had been sent there for a time out. "WTF, dude! You're in my box!"

Er, anyway. Funny you should write about this. We're at roughly the same stage with Sam. He's known the alphabet for over a year, but he's only lately gotten interested in reading. We've been doing what hollienoel suggested: demonstrating sounds and all that. We've cracked his old board books with the 1:1 word-to-page ratio, and we spell and sound out all the words.

We've also been appealing to Sam via his interests, i.e. heavy equipment and bodily functions. We have a couple sets of magnetic letters on the fridge, plus a huge chalkboard in the kitchen, and we write Sam's new favourite words together -- words like "excavator" and "dump truck" and "poop" -- you know, all the stuff that's going to end up in his Booker-winning novel someday. Let me tell you: the day he accidentally spelled "bum" in fridge magnets was like a major breakthrough day. When I pointed out what he'd done, his new obsession with learning how words are made really took off... well, after he picked himself up off the floor after busting a gut laughing at how hilarious he is.

Lately, we've also been shamelessly exploiting his fascination with our computers. We open up Word, crank up the font size, and let him type. Ninety-five percent of the time he just types random stuff, but he's started to ask how to spell certain words (see above), so we dictate them to him and he types them. I think the act of writing the words is really key to the whole learning process.

Man, I'm loving this phase. It's so much fun. It's just so great to see how interested he is, without any prompting, and it's really fun and challenging trying to figure out new ways to break down the mechanics of reading in ways that are specific to this one little person whom I know so well.

By Blogger Tammy, at March 7, 2008 at 11:05 PM  

I'm not sure how old I was, but I do vaguely remember sitting on my dad's lap picking words I recognized out of the Time magazine. I guess I was probably 4? Or thereabouts. And that was in 1967 probably.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 8, 2008 at 3:37 AM  

I couldn't read when I started kindergarten, but when I found out there were other kids in the class who could read, my mom says I forced myself to read in about 10 days. (That gives you a little insight into my competitive nature.).

My two boys learned how to read around 3 or 4. It's kind of like they just woke up one morning and knew how to read. We sent my younger son to Montessori in September just after he turned 3, and he brought his first book home to read to us over Thanksgiving break. I still remember those words -- "I'm a weader now."

Sesame Street definitely helped pave the way for my reading development, but for my kids, it's been Between the Lions.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 8, 2008 at 7:01 AM  

Okay, I'm going to sound like a complete underachiever here. I learned to read in kindergarten. But I didn't learn reading comprehension until I was in second grade. I remember vividly the first time I realized that the sentence "the cat is on the mat" meant that a cat was on a mat instead of just six words that I knew how to say strung together. It's was revolutionary to my seven-year old brain. The stories suddenly made sense! The stupid worksheets made sense! I can read!

I am a crazy reader now. Soooo...I guess this doesn't tell you how to teach him to read, but it's just a gentle reminder that sometimes the kids can go through the motions, but not really get it. You know what I mean?

By Blogger NGS, at March 8, 2008 at 12:40 PM  

PBS has some fantastic shows for the preschool age kid. Sesame Street is still on the air, but at odd times. Anything you can do to encourage your child to read is a good thing! If he sees his parents enjoying books, he'll (hopefully) follow in your footsteps!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 8, 2008 at 2:37 PM  

I really liked reading both this post and the comments, because I enjoy learning that it's not just me.

I was an early reader myself, starting well before kindergarten, and so was my son. I'm not sure exactly how I learned, and I don't recall deliberately teaching him. I did read to him a lot from the time he was a year old, having him sit beside me or on my lap looking at the pages with me, and he was a regular Sesame Street viewer - but as far as I can tell, he pretty much just picked it up himself as a result of exposure. I should mention that another part of the "exposure" was seeing his parents read a lot, and wanting to join in.

The first thing that I recall him reading was a sign in a building. He looked at it and said "Exit. Mean 'go out.'" He wasn't three years old yet. At four, one of his preschool teachers told me he was reading their books a lot; she had tested him, and he really was reading, not just looking at the pages. By the time they noticed it at preschool, we were already used to him reading at home.

I suspect that if you keep exposing M. Small to the opportunity, and he's interested, you may find that you don't have to teach him all that much.

By Blogger Unknown, at March 8, 2008 at 5:09 PM  

Re: Heather, upthread:

"they started a G&T program for the 5 of us that could read..."

My kindergarten would have been a lot different if it had had a Gin and Tonic program. I mean, those years are pretty much a blur anyway. Although there might have been more hair-pulling when we fought over the My Little Ponies...

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 8, 2008 at 6:12 PM  

Man, are there any grandparents in the world who didn't have Continentals?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 8, 2008 at 7:21 PM  

I learned to read at an early age with no apparent effort made by any of the grown-ups in my life. Therefore, my parents thought that teaching a kid to read was pretty easy. Then my sister, who was a perfectly intelligent kid with no learning disabilities required a lot of work from both my parents. My mom says that if she could redo one part of her parenting, she would like to teach my sister to read again, and try to enjoy it more, rather than being impatient and frustrated. Finally by around Grade 2/3my sister could really read, but it was such a challenge for her that she had a hard time believing that she was smart after that. I know it's irritating when people talk about self-esteem but she really did have a crisis of self-confidence that lasted for many years and she thinks it started when she couldn't learn to read as easily as everyone assumed that she would. She now has her B.Ed and is a high-school teacher so obviously the rough start in reading did not have long-term educational effects. My mom wishes she had worried more about the long-term confidence situation and not put so much pressure on her. Also, because it was a negative experience, it wasn't until she was in university that she started to read books for non-educational purposes and consider reading to actually be something that she could enjoy. Not to be naggy to everyone who reads this blog and has commented but since I have a few kids of my own now, I'm always interested to know what parents of grown-ups wish they had done differently. So, enjoy the process, remember it's not a race and they'll all learn to read eventually. But only the ones who have a good learning experience will actually love it and life without loving to read is a sad state to end up in.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 8, 2008 at 8:58 PM  

I remember learning to read because I was the nerd who demanded to go to kindergarten at three when my sister started first grade.

My teacher set things up very much like Easy Reader on *The Electric Company* -- "cat" at the top of one of those huge tablets, with "R" below it to the left and "at" to the right, and "B" below that, etc. Once he gets "rat," it's a small step to "bat," then you try "ball" (or "vampire," depending on your household).

Children's dictionaries are also helpful -- that's what I used with my niece and nephew. And I had a stack of the book/record combos, too.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 8, 2008 at 9:14 PM  

You know, kids seem to vary wildly as to when their brains are ready to read. I started reading before I turned 3 (full disclosure: I'm another early '70s baby), as did one of my first cousins. My first memory of learning to read is a cloth alphabet book in my playpen. Other than that, I don't remember ever being "taught" to read. My younger sister, who is arguably smarter than I am and unquestionably has a better memory than I do, learned to read at school when she was about 6. One of my friends has a child, a bright, personable girl, who didn't really read until she was about 9. Now, a few years later, she reads above grade level.

There seems to be some group of neural connections that have to work together for reading to happen naturally, and the switch gets flipped at different ages for different kids. If the kid is bright and gets plenty of reading time with parents, they'll read on their own when they're ready. Precocity is a good predictor of intelligence, but lack of precocity is not. M. Small is obviously blessed with a great deal of verbal intelligence, and the reading light bulb will come on for him when his brain has matured enough in certain areas. Good on you for spending so much time reading with him.

By Blogger kmckee7, at March 9, 2008 at 7:59 AM  

@ anonymous upthread: Kindergarten sure would've gone a lot more smoothly (elementary-high school overall, actually) had G&T stood for gin and tonics... Alas, it stood for gifted and talented program, and before anyone starts thinking that I'm boasting about what a freakin' genius I was by the tender age of 4, well let me reassure you, it wasn't the case. Otherwise, my fellow "geniuses" and I would've known that what the teachers were saying was G *and* T and not G N T.

Glad other folks out there have love for Between the Lions as we do here. Please tell me there are other Word World fans, as well? Word World seriously kicks the current version of Sesame Street soundly in its Elmo-heavy ass!

By Blogger Heather, at March 9, 2008 at 9:34 AM  

I learned to read at age 3-ish, and have been a prolific reader ever since. My two children, who are now 10 and 11, didn't really learn to read until about age 6, and are both ravenous about books, especially my 11-year-old son. Don't worry! He's already totally rocking on the reading thing.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 9, 2008 at 11:37 AM  

Here's what worked for my little reader, who is now 4:

1. We tried to read her "early reader" books that included easy words that she already knew. It wasn't long before she figured out that when I read "The cat is asleep" that the two words after "cat," which she knew, must be "is asleep." She learned a lot of words just by sight that way.

2. As for sounding things out, she got the Leapfrog Writing Desk for her 3rd birthday, and she played with it constantly. One of the games teaches word sounds, and then allows kids to try spelling out words based on what they sound like. She literally learned to sound words out within a few months.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 9, 2008 at 1:02 PM  

Long time listener, first-time caller checking in here...

Based on what I've read on here, you've been "teaching" M. Small since you brought him home. Your house is full of books (as a bibliophile and neophyte woodworker, I have to confess that when you post pics, after admiring the adorable that is M. Small, I check out the bookshelves in the background because I'm weird like that), you read to him and keep the house stocked with all kinds of wonderful things like floating letters and Leapfrog DVDs...

But mostly, you and Trash have done the important bit just by being your own fabulous selves. With your chosen careers, both of you reading, and the abundance of books around your house, the two of you have demonstrated that literacy is something your family values very highly. It's the kind of atmosphere kids absorb by osmosis.

Between that and the things you and Trash are already doing, and his love of books and fascination with letters, there'll be a day when it "clicks" for him. And it will be awesome.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 10, 2008 at 6:59 AM  

I was visiting my brother this weekend and we were talking about just this thing. My brother was reading on a fairly high level by the time he was 3, I learned mostly in school when I was 6. As it turns out, my delay was due to Dyslexia (which I still have problems with...see all spelling related issues and please don't judge).

One of the ways my parents taught my brother to read is that they made a game out of it. Now he was a motivated little kid and WANTED to learn to read (many kids do, I was less interested because I had this nice older brother who would read to me whatever I wanted). So the deal was, as long as he went and took a nap without complaint my Mom would spend the time he was sleeping putting together words using those magnetic letters that you put on refigerators.

He would wake up and he would get to see all those neat words on the fridge and they'd go through them with him sounding them out. There was generally a mix of old and new words and she tried to have a theme (cat hat sat). As he got better she would make it more difficult (all H words where the H was pronounced differently or all words that started with the "Ka" sound but spelled differently).

Anyway, he has some really fond memories of this. Good luck and remember, M.Small will do what he does when he does it. Sometimes it takes some of us a while to get the hang of things.

By Blogger Unknown, at March 10, 2008 at 7:19 AM  

I started reading at three thanks to the Letter People and my grandmother's Little Golden books. She would point to each word as she read it. Eventually, she asked me read the smaller words, and then the bigger ones a while after. I had to sound out the bigger words for a time, but I got the hang of it before I was 4. I remember feeling like a badass in kindergarten because I was the only kid who could read a whole book.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 10, 2008 at 7:35 AM  

Have to put in a good word for "Word World" here.

I'm not a parent, but my Cat LOVES it (of course, he also likes Telletubbies, so you have to take his opinion with a grain of salt!). I sat down to watch it one day and it is one of the greatest kids' shows I have ever seen! So clever and cute!

By Blogger Kate T., at March 10, 2008 at 8:23 AM  

Way late of this thing, I know; but a practical suggestion: Yo? Yes! and Ring? Yo! by Chris Raschka. The words are simple, and he can spell them out. Doing it the hundred billion times, like you will if he likes them, will probably help him realize that hey, when you put those letters together in your mouth, they sound like words. Oh, they ARE words! My four-year-old even learned punctuation from these, although he refers to it as an "escalation point."

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 10, 2008 at 8:30 AM  

"Escalation point"! So utterly awesome. I'm going to start calling them that from now on.

By Blogger kmckee7, at March 10, 2008 at 11:46 AM  

Perhaps think of yourself as less of a teacher and more of a coach. Yes, kids need instruction and correction, but they also need endless guidance, motivation, patience and support. It's no good being the most precise reader in kindergarten if the very sight of a book makes you want to bite your teacher in anger.

One major help in learning to read is having the drive to do so -and it sounds like he has that in spades. My parents read for work and fun and the shelves were full of colourful shiny books so of course I wanted to read, to be like the grown ups.

By Blogger LB, at March 11, 2008 at 3:16 AM  

Heh. Or you could get him a sibling. I learned to read by reading aloud to my little brother... and consequently taught him to read as well!

By Blogger hgranger, at March 14, 2008 at 9:28 AM  

I have done some time as an adult literacy tutor and was interested to find that you teach an adult to read the very same way you teach a kid, and you reinforce it with auditory, visual and sensory repetition. I learned to read before I started school, so I had no recollection of the learning process, so it was pretty interesting learning for myself about what the rule is for doubling the trailing consonant before adding -ing, or All About The Schwa. If you want to learn how kids learn to read, get your mitts on a kindergarten or first grade textbook and follow that. A word of caution from my own formative years, though: being ahead of the class is not always good. Sometimes a teacher, having no idea what else to do, and not being able to provide individualized attention, will just have an advanced student work on things they already know, which is of course boring and also demotivating.

By Blogger The Daily Pansy, at March 19, 2008 at 5:31 PM  

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