It’s official. Ben is a reader.
The code has been cracked. The letter shapes have meaning beyond their names. Beyond their “sounds”. The clumps of letters have significance. They make words! And the order of the letters in the words is important. The words are always lined up left to right. Top of the page to the bottom. The words represent things. They’re symbols that can’t be touched, but must be seen in our minds–abstractly. When it’s all put together using eyes, memory, and visualization, the symbols are combined and coordinated and gelled and processed and it makes perfect sense!
And it happened just like that.
One day he was a pre-reader, the next he could read.
I remember vividly when I first learned to read. The world just opened up and was available to me in a way it wasn’t just the day before. Words were everywhere! Words with information! (The faucet in the tub says HOT and COLD!) I can remember reading the stop sign at the end of our street for the first time and really ‘getting’ how although I knew it had said STOP before, it was different now because I could read it. I understood the sound/symbol code and that those letters put together in that certain way could make a big impact in the world. Heck, even giant yellow school busses paid attention to that word.
It seems to be just the same for Ben. He reads everything. If he were awake right now, he’d be trying to read over my shoulder as I type. Every street sign (“No parking, mom”), every shelf label at the grocery store (“Pork! We need to buy some pork.”), every billboard (“That says ‘aquarium’. We need to go to the aquarium.”), and of course, every book is now brimming with excitement and opportunity just waiting to be read. Ben’s memory skills serve him well in this area as he has a large ‘sight word’ (words you don’t need to encode, but know from memory) bank. He also does not seem thrown by the endless “rule breakers” found in the English language. He gets the idea of ‘blends’, ‘silent’ e’s, and seems to accept that C says “keh” and also “sss”, but K only says “keh” unless it’s ‘silent’. He doesn’t know the crazy terms, of course, yet allows for the inconsistencies just the same.
What is also notable, for Ben, is that his new skill opens up so many more ways to communicate and connect with others. And he already desires to do so. He tells me what he reads, asks questions, points out words that he sees. I, in turn, have him read me the pancake recipe, the mail, the grocery list… We’ve started writing stories together, composing letters, labeling artwork… It’s all really really fun. And it provides a whole new avenue for pursuing our RDI goals.
We never used any phonics programs, letter sound videos, or electronic “educational toys”. For one, they annoy me. For another, those types of toys can really discouarage a child from seeking out human interaction–not something we needed to promote in our Ben. What did we do? We read books. Lots and lots and lots of books. We went to the library every week. We had lots of print all around us–lists, labels, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, letters from Grandma… We read things aloud, pointed to the words, tracked text while we read, let him sit in our laps while we typed, wrote things together… We also watched some Sesame Street, although it’s contribution to the effort is, although wonderfully entertaining, most likely negligible. So this milestone of Ben’s came about the old fashioned way, environmentally supported, naturally modelled, and thoughtfully guided until development buds and blooms.