Saturday, May 16, 2009

Learning to Read

My four-year-old is on the cusp of learning to read. At school they’re focused on sounding out the words, one letter at a time. She gets this concept, knows her letters, and can make the appropriate sound for each. The next step, according to her preschool teacher, is flowing those sounds together into the whole word. This part seems to be giving her some trouble. It’s almost as if she’s refusing to do it out of spite. She’s happy to name the letters, make each sound the letters make, but if you push her to run the sounds together, she’ll quit the game and refuse to play anymore. The fact that this stubborn streak in her reminds me wholly of myself at her age fills me with equal parts dread and pride.

Anyway, the other day, as I was attempting to read a sentence or two in my book, she walked up and glanced at the cover. “That says ‘baby’” she told me, pointing. I flipped the book over to see that, in fact, it did say baby. I asked how she knew that and she spelled the word, then made the sound for each letter, then said baby again. I can tell she didn’t sound out the word, just recognized it from somewhere, which seems an awful lot like reading to me. When I praised her for it, she simply shrugged and walked off.

Later that same day, she wanted a Gogurt. We have two kinds, strawberry and berry. She opened the fridge, announced that she wanted a berry one, and picked up a tube and pored over it for a minute. “This one’s berry,” she announced. Figuring she was full of it, I looked over her shoulder. “See?” she said, “B-e-r-r-y. Berry.” I was stunned. Who taught this kid to read?

I tried showing her other words, to see what else she knew, but predictably, once put on the spot, she shut down and refused to cooperate. I backed off and haven’t tried again. I’m giving her a couple days break before I broach the subject again. If she’s anything like her mama (and I know she is), she’ll have the skill fully mastered before she unveils it.

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