This just in: my two-year-old can read!! No, we did not purchase a ridiculous “teach your baby to read” program and he has never seen a day of public television (or any TV for that matter). Perhaps my joyous proclamation is a bit misleading, but my son is definitely building connections through books! One night this week, during our nightly reading ritual, he announced that it was his turn to read. Usually my husband and I take turns reading books that our son selects very purposefully from his bookshelves. He lets us know who will read each book by saying “Mama turn” or “Dada turn.” This time, he selected Hooray for Fish! by Lucy Cousins. We have read this book over and over again since our trip to an aquarium over Labor Day weekend. He sat down in the middle of the floor, stated the title, and opened the book to the first page. My husband and I watched in amazement as he turned to each page and accurately “read” the entire book, using voice inflection and commenting on some favorite parts. We couldn’t understand every word, but it was obvious that he knew exactly what he was saying. When he finished, he closed the book, looked up at us with a huge smile, and we all clapped and cheered.
Reading is not only decoding words. It is making connections between written symbols and true communication. Reading is about comprehension. My son is developing comprehension skills as we read, read, read with him. He already understands and demonstrates the connection between books and words. He interacts with the texts and illustrations by pointing to words and numbers he has seen us indicate during repeated readings. He also comments on characters and other details in illustrations. We talk about letters and play silly nonsense sound games and sing all the time, but we are not using flashcards or toddler computers that are heavily marketed today. We are simply exposing him to books and language play through authentic experiences with books and with us, his parents. We model reading for him and he already sees how much we love books and value reading.
As he read to us with great pride the other night, I thought about all of the skills he was demonstrating simply based on his experiences with books. Here is a rough list:
-directionality (reading right-side up, front to back and left to right)
-connection between written word and spoken word
-skill recognition (pointing out colors, shapes, and numbers in the book)
-connection between words and pictures
So, maybe my two-year-old isn’t yet a fluent, independent reader, but he is building a strong foundation on which to build. If you have read any of my blog posts, you know that I am passionate about reading, especially reading with young children. Use every opportunity you have to pull a child onto your lap or snuggle up together on a couch and READ!