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“R” is for Reading

Simon isn’t reading, but he’s sure trying to. For several months now, he’s wanted to know what every word starts with. Aside from the expected C vs. K, C vs. S, and G vs. J confusion, he’s been doing very well. Oh, and the totally unexpected (to me) but understandable confusion that words like “wa, wa, water” don’t start with “Y” (say that letter out loud, and you’ll understand if you didn’t before).

In the beginning, around August, he’d choose select words—Simon! Mommy!—to experiment with, and throw in the odd sign—S-T-O-P—on occasion. At the next phase, he began to investigate everything. That’s when we’d have exchanges like this:

“Are you ready to lie down now?”

“‘L’ is for ‘lie down’.”

Starting in November, he made a few forays into spelling an entire word, doing pretty well with consonants and less so with vowels. And now, he is simply enamored of the written word. His favorite shows have shifted from Curious George and The Cat in the Hat to Super Why (a reading show) and Word Girl. Trips to the store feature him pointing to signs and saying things like “S-T-A-P-L-E-S: Staples!” Bed-time reading every night includes Simon choosing select words to spell out, sound out, and attempt to put together.

For the most part, he can’t do it. I’ll ask him to sound out each letter in word, say “fire” and get this:

“Fu, fu, fu. Ay, ay, ay. Ru, ru, ru.”

But if ask him how these sounds go together, I get a frustrated and/or blank stare in return.

Once or twice, though, he’s gotten it. “he, he, he, ee, ee, ee” became “he” pretty easily. And we may have managed a “Sam” or “am” a couple of times, though it’s more likely he’s just memorized the words on a given page or is taking a gestalt approach. I think it’s very interesting that he can go from word to letters, but not the other way around; I wish I understood the neuroscience behind that.

Foundation laid, now we wait for the connections to be made. How long it will take, I couldn’t tell you. A few months? A whole year? Your guess is as good as mine, better if you have much experience with children.

What I do know is that Mama needs to get a hold of herself, pronto. I have prided myself on not being that mother, the one who pushes her kid, sees her child as her personal masterpiece, and takes pride in her child’s accomplishments as though they were her own. I am not that mother! I do not push! Simon can learn to read at six, as I did, and do just fine.

It’s just that he’s so very, very close, and it’s so utterly, totally amazing to watch. And the pull, therefore, is so irresistible to coach and coax and help, and encourage, and—okay I’ll just say it, to push—a teeny tiny bit to get him over the hump and into the wondrous world of the written word.

Except that makes me that mother. The one who anxiously asks me at regular intervals what Simon can or can’t do, trying hard to look casual when her face betrays an anxiety that her kid might not be able to do everything every other kid can do. Or heaven forbid the ridiculous ones on TV commercials teaching their babies to “read”.

And really, I think I’d rather have Simon not read until he’s seven than be that mother. Plus, whatever advances he may be making in reading are more than made up for by his considerable lag in writing. Between being a boy, being a lefty, and being mine (and Ivan’s* by extension), Simon is (predictably) well on his way to a future of atrocious penmanship.

*Poor Dad. First I blame him for my directional challenges, and now this. But it’s true! We always attributed Dad’s awful handwriting to being a lefty born at a time when they tried to convert you to right-handedness. This excuse held up pretty well until I came along: a right-handed girl whose equally awful handwriting bears the same quirks as my Dad’s. So as to not appear overly negative I will say that when Simon pulls over his trike to admire flowers, tells me that Sophie’s pink mittens are beautiful, or gets lost in the museum galleries on his way to Art Sparks, I see my Dad’s life-long appreciation for visual beauty.

One Response to ““R” is for Reading”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    Admiring the flowers while riding a trike is great. Your Dad had a couple of problems in the past when he was admiring a beautiful front yard while driving the car. Oops.

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