"He's a 2-year-old, and he 'reads'!" by Braggy McBraggypants

For awhile now we’ve marveled at how Kostyn delights in “reading” his books to us. For example, the last time we were at the library I picked up a book about animals called “What We Do.” I read it to him once a day for about a week. Then one night he requested it: “What We Do?” he said, and it took me a minute to understand it was a book he was talking about.

That night when I started reading it he interrupted me, wanting to say the words himself. “We are worms and we wiggle,” he said. “I’m a caterpillar. I creep.” I was surprised, but turned the page.

“I’m a fish and I swim. We are lambs...we leap.” He read every page! (To clarify, his pronunciation was pretty questionable on some of it, but he said the main words of every sentence.)

Goes to show how attentive and observant a toddler is, because if someone had hid the words on each page I wouldn’t have gotten them all right, the way he did.

The next night he started acting out the motions, something Chris and I later realized neither one of us had taught him. “I’m a mouse and I scurry,” he’d say, wiggling off my lap to shuffle his feet in tiny little steps all around the room. Then he’d climb back up onto my lap to read the next line. “We are ants and we march...” he’d say, wiggle down to the floor, march around the room. The back up to the lap.


So that’s been his way of “reading,” and it really is precious. Anyway, we’ve had a set of Thomas the Train books sitting on his bookshelf since, well, his birth. Each book is a different color with a different train featured on front (Gordon the Something Engine, Percy the Whatchamacallit, Toby Blah Blah, I clearly don’t know them....). My sister-in-law Annette gave them to him when he was a baby, saying, “Someday you’ll love these.” And that day has come.

Just this past week, out of the blue, he’s wanted to read those books, a different one each night. I still haven’t read any of them to him (I tried once about a year ago and it was clear he wasn’t old enough yet to be captured by the illustrations or the story) but Chris has been reading one to him each night for the last few nights. Kostyn has never seen the cartoon or any other Thomas books, so this is a whole new train world for him.

Two nights ago Chris noticed Kostyn knew what each book was. “No read TOBY!” he said when Chris picked up the “Thomas” book. Last night Kostyn emphatically requested “Percy,” thrusting the correct book at his Daddy, who’d never actually read the “Percy” book to him.

“How do you know this one’s Percy?” Chris asked him, curious.

Kostyn stared at the cover for a moment before pointing. “P-E-R-C-Y. This spells Percy.”

When I came into the room a few minutes later to kiss him goodnight, Chris relayed this to me and we stared at each other blankly for a full minute.

Is it possible for a kid to teach himself to read?


Heather said...

I have to say that your child is amazing!

Lyn said...

Hey! Wait a minute! I thought P-E-R-C-Y spelled "Stop"!

Ryan and I were just talking about kids and reading and one of the doctor's from Oprah's show says that kids can start reading as early at three months and should no all their letters and numbers by 2 and reading by 3...he says allowing them to wait until kindergarten puts them at a disadvantaged.

It comes as no surprise to me that a child of 2 brilliant journalists has taught himself to read!

Robyn said...

Lyn - That's why we were so struck by it, because everything DID used to spell 'stop'! :) (Unless he's in Evan's room, where everything spells "Evan," including the "PEACE LOVE BABY" artwork we have on the wall.) :)

Kostyn and Evan's Grammy said...

Pop Pop's and I saw Kostyn reading and acting out his book and he was right on for every page. Needless to say, we were amazed. What a delightful little boy. Thankfully, all our grandsons love books!!!! ( And Cora, too )

Maestra said...

So...the prevailing view of mainstream education in the US is that reading is defined as decoding letter combinations based upon standardized rules of phonics. This is why letter names are commonly taught first, followed by sounds, followed by two and three letter combinations, etc. Sounds logical, right?

Then there are those of us rogue educators (like you're surprised) who say we have bogged-down the whole process to the detriment of a large portion of the student population. Seriously, how many words in this comment have you s..ou...n..d.e.d...ou...t so far? Does that mean you're not reading? Many elementary educators completely discount sight words. Many others accept only the ones on the Dolch lists as acceptable to be taught in that way. Meanwhile, almost 60% of the 300 most commonly written/read words in the English language do not conform to those phonics rules we teach in first grade - hence the need for populating our school libraries with such stimulating literature as Bob Books. Are phonics rules good to learn? Absolutely. Must a child follow that path in order to learn to read? Absolutely not!

There is a great long term study that was conducted in the amazing Reggio-Emilia schools in Italy that shows that, barring physical developmental issues such as dyslexia, when a child is ready to read, no matter if he is two or twelve, he will do so on his own after just 30 hours of being read to one-on-one while able to see the text and engaged in the subject matter.

So in Kostyn's case he probably learned that Percy is the green engine from the pictures in the other books, recognized the image on the book he wanted to hear, already understands that letter combinations have meanings and that when the text is written large/in close proximity to a picture they often identify the image, and shared his knowledge.

Is this reading? Absolutely!

Are other kids disadvantaged if they aren't reading until seven? Nope, their brains and bodies are busy developing other skills. Every child who is lovingly supported in their endeavors will be successful when they're ready.

In Auntie KiKi's not so humble opinion anyway.

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Jeez, you sure do take that "Maestra" moniker seriously...

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