Developing reading skills in young children

I enjoy reading. Why? Perhaps it is because Golden Books surrounded me as a toddler. Perhaps it is because I listened to stories as they were read. Perhaps it is because I was taken to the city library the year I entered school and returned again and again after that. Perhaps it is because books were always around that I was never forbidden to read.

I learned to read my first year in school. It was a combined class of first and second grades. I always finished my work in the pre-primers and primers first so I kept going ahead even though doing so was strictly forbidden and enforced by my teacher. When I got to the end of each book hoping the rest of the class would get there soon, there was little to do. It was a challenge to look busy. Meanwhile, I listened to the second graders reading stories so much better and more exciting than Dick and Jane.

la with westie

It must have been heredity when some forty years later my toddler son who had not yet entered school began to read to me. I remember the moment well. LA was four. We were in the therapist’s because I had been injured. Fourteen month older ET was off somewhere, probably camp. I had brought along some library books I had to return that I loaned for ET to help him with reading readiness. As I was lying back trying to relax as the girl connected the ultrasound machine, I heard words, no sentences. Where was the source?

I looked around and saw LA holding one of the books. Sure enough words were coming from his mouth loudly, clearly, correctly. I asked him to bring the book to me. He did so. Then I asked him to read what he just read again. He proudly repeated the page even better than the first time. All the words were in and pronounced correctly. He even paused with the punctuation. I was in awe. I was in wonder. I liked what I just heard and told him so on the spot.

“LA, who taught you to read?” His answer stopped me in my tracks even though I wasn’t very mobile.

“You, Mommy.”

“I did.” I made the statement matter of fact but incredulously. It’s best not to show children emotions like shock. “When?”

“When you were with ET doing his words and letters.”

“Oh!” I was speechless for the moment. When I processed the information, I remember saying something like, “That’s great, LA. You read good. I enjoyed you reading to me. Maybe we can do more together.” I had forgotten to factor in how much children learn from one another–both good and bad. They do it when they are ready and not always when we plan for it.

I never failed to estimate or underestimate LA again after that. I also kept lots of children’s books around and started taking him to the library. Take the opportunity when it comes. The fact is reading opens many doors. Help your kids enjoy reading.

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