Youthful Connections

Observations of a teacher mom: Many pages of literacy

 | September 1, 2012

With the parenting guidelines of never saying “no” to a glass of water, more vegetables or books, reading to my kids has always been one of the fun rules in our house.

There was no television or trip to the movie theatre in our daughter’s first few years, so cultural and imaginative entertainment came primarily in the form of stories, lots of them.

This reading habit was easily passed on to our son, who I’d plunk in a bouncy chair at the side of our daughter’s bed when he was an infant as I read bedtime stories. A little older, my husband and I would often split the kids up for bedtime stories so that they could each enjoy age appropriate literature at the end of the day.

Now, my six-year-old is sounding out her own stories, reading “The Red Hen” and “Pat Has a Pet” to her brother and me before I take over with a few stories for them both. Whether it’s my three-year-old son’s exposure to his sister’s sounding out the words of her stories, or wiring differences in their brains, he’s now starting to fill in some of the blanks when she gets stumped.

“P – e – t – s,” she’ll sound out. “Pest!”

“Pets,” corrects her little brother.

Interestingly, there never seems to be any resentment from her when he gets it right. It’s almost like she enjoys the opportunity to extend praise to her brother for his literacy triumph, just as I extend praise to her for her successes.

Now, I’m not suggesting my three-year-old can read. What’s more likely is that he’s attending to the meaning of the story more as a listener than his sister is as she focuses on the mechanics of reading the words. But, his attention is a literacy victory in that he’s understanding the stories and noticing when something doesn’t make sense.

Another thing I’m noticing about his budding literacy is his growing curiosity in the physical act of reading.

“Is this the front?” he asks as he holds a book.

“Of course it is, you know that,” I’d reply.

He knows which side is the front firstly from the picture, but what comes with identifying the proper orientation of the cover art is habituating himself to recognizing letters and words in their upright position. Literacy foundations begin with how to hold a book, which way the pages turn, scanning from left to right, and so on. It’s not just in sounding out the words.

Most recently he posed another reading question as I was reading a novel to myself.

“Mom, what are you doing?”

“I’m reading,” I responded.

“Where are you putting the words?” he finally asked.

As much training as I have in teaching and literacy, I realized I hadn’t explicitly explained silent reading. I’ve checked that subject off the list now, and I can’t wait to have my next omission pointed out.