I could read when I was really little. Like three, maybe four. I don’t remember learning to read, I don’t remember NOT knowing how to read.
Reading always came easily and naturally– I was a fast and voracious reader growing up, and I only recognized way later what an advantage that was in school. Homework took me a fraction of the time it took a lot of my classmates. There were definitely areas in which I had to sweat and struggle (hello, physics, precalculus, intramural anything) but how about some kinda liberal arts discussion based class? Middle Eastern History? Philosophy of Education? Put me in, coach!!!
So, once I started thinking of myself as an early childhood educator, at about twenty years old, it came as a long slow realization to me that (duh) not everyone learns to read like I did– by, kinda, “getting it.”
Huh? You mean…
reading is NOT a universally innate human aptitude (unlike spoken language or music, for example).
understanding the brick by brick building blocks of reading, and understandng how children learn, is essential if I wanted to help children learn to read.
For a few children,
being in a literacy-rich environment is in fact enough. They just, pick it up/
For most children, specific, responsive, systematic, timely and supportive instruction, within a literacy-rich environment, is enough. They learn to read!
And for a few, intensive intervention, designed with the particular child’s needs and learning style in mind, needs to be added.
That’s a way more complex picture than I had at 20, starting out on my early childhood educator’s journey.
And today, on this journey, I had an amazing, joyful and celebratory experience.
I went to pick Alden up from school and one of his teachers made sure to ask him if he wanted to take a couple of stapled paper books home.
“Oh, yes!” he practically shouted, reaching for them. “Because, Mama, I can read them to you.”
I looked at his teacher. She was nodding and her eyes were wide. “He CAN,” she said.
Well, I wasn’t going to wait til we got home.
“You wanna read them right NOW??” I asked. “Yeah! Yeah!” he agreed.. we sat in the hall. And, my son, my 4-1/2 year old boy, this dude… proceeded to read me the two little books.
Now, I used to think reading was a black and white thing. I mean, Are ya or Aren’t’cha? Silly. What the heck else do I put that demarcation on? Successive approximations are allowed in shooting baskets, making beds, tying shoes, most things, when you think about it.
YES, I gave him a minor nudge here and there.
YES, he had read it many times that day and so the remembered words are helping him out.
And YES, there were pictures providing context to help him read it successfully.
All three of those things are actually signs of successful reading! He read thnose books, with minor help. He corrected himSELF several times along the way, and, as importantly, hesitated when the word he’d said didn’t match up with the letters he was seeing.
Kid read the books.
I burst into tears.
I am so happy for him j-u-s-t starting to turn the key… unlocking the most magic door I know.
I am so proud of him, and so delighted at this accomplishment that feels not like a “have to” but like an “I GET to!!!”
And I am so profoundly thankful to his teachers thus far (including his grandparents and everyone who has cared for him… Melissa, Ann, Nina, Shauni, Jayme, Kirsten, Mina, Amelia, and now Kim, Rachael and Catherine…) because this guy has ONLY spent time in environments where reading is treasured.
May it ever be so.