Sunday, September 12, 2010

His Love for Letters and Books

I have yet to talk about how I suspected that B had unique mental ability. There were definitely things that made me stop and think. It’s hard to look back at his early years and know whether the excitement was because child development is so awe inspiring or if some of these early developments held clues to his future brightness.

There’s nothing like development charts to make parents crazy, hopeful and even scared. Did my son reach all his developments on time? This is a two part question. There were the mental developments and those he generally exceeded by weeks if not months and at some point years. The other part of those charts are physical. For the first year he did meet these “expectations” fairly early. Rolling at 11 weeks, crawling at 6 months, walking at 10 months. I’m sure that other children have done these things at same time or earlier so I can’t say whether or not these held any clues. It was mostly the mental developments that just blew me away.

Ever have a moment in time when you witness something and have a predictive thought that felt so real that you had a hard time believing your own head? I had one of those with B. He was 10 months old at it was around x-mas. He had just received a bunch of gifts. We were all in the living room and I glanced over. He had the pick of what he wanted to play with but he chose a book. He then sat down and opened the book. Then, he turned it around because it was upside down. He continued to carefully “read” that book for the next 10 minutes page by page. Once he was at the end he would start over and carefully “read” and pause on each page and then continue flipping each page again. At some point I started taking video because I was shocked that my HIGH energy child had the ability to just sit and do anything for 10 minutes. At the same time I had this thought in my head that said “His thing is books.”

We read to him just like most parents do at night. I’m sure it’s pretty normal for kids to ask “just one more book” and he was already getting 3 or 4 a night so we had to limit that insistent need he had for more. We also provided the same educational toys like many parents have. We had the alphabet puzzles, books, blocks, and bath foam letters. He always wanted to play with the alphabet toys over any others. Is this normal? I don’t know but he could recognize all the letters by 22 months. He loved the alphabet so much that his 2ND birthday party was alphabet themed. The guests were amazed as he walked around saying what all the letters were that were used as decorations. At some point he turned these letters into words.

B loved to take baths. Just loved them. I admit that I was often bored giving him his almost daily 30 minute baths so I HAD to do something so I wouldn’t fall asleep. We had more bath toys than room in the bathroom to keep them. His favorite ones were the bath crayons and foam letters. He would hand me a crayon and say “draw a blue M” and I would. Over, and over. At some point he started asking me to spell words. (He said over 50 words at 18months, not sure if that’s a lot but it’s a point of reference here) So I did because frankly I had nothing else to do and if I didn’t he would throw a fit and that’s not fun for anyone. Then at some point he started to take the foam letters and spell words himself. This was between 2 and before 2.5.

It started off easy enough like cat, dog, and other three letter words. But it didn’t stop there. I noticed that he would then start spelling longer words: bunny, mommy, train. It got to the point where I had to get another set of foam letters so he could have more than one of each letter to spell with. This went on for a few months and each time I was amazed but thought, that it seemed like a natural progression from learning letters so what else would he do next? Until it dawned on me.

Wait, he’s SPELLING WORDS and not always ones that I have spelled first? How is this possible? Sure you can chalk some up to Dora and Diego but these words were not all themed like that. And if he’s spelling words does that mean he can read them?! Of course, I dismissed this thought but yet it nagged at me. I decided to write down some words on a piece of paper and have him try to read them to me. I picked words that he had spelled and (I guess) of course he could read them to me. I then went out to get a few early reading books. He could not read every word but he could read most of it. How on earth?! You want to freak people out? Have your not yet three year old at the grocery store with you while he’s reading all the labels and signs he can. He was almost obsessed with learning new words.

A neighbor of mine had older sons and was getting rid of stuff they had outgrown. In that stuff were reading flashcards. On a whim, I took them out and showed B. He was hooked. He was so hooked that I would have to limit the amount of cards I would do at one time. I did’t want it to seem like I’m forcing my not yet 3 yr old to read because trust me I wasn’t. This kid was on a mission. He would have found the information that he wanted to feed his brain. I would say we were doing 5 cards and he would insist on doing 10. This pace of learning did not slow down and he was soon to be in preschool.

He continued to read and we continued to read to him. His ability to soak up information was amazing. During his 2ND year of preschool he had already been reading for a year so we asked the school to test his reading level. We were mostly interested in making sure we were picking appropriate books because he seemed to go through each step quickly. The teacher resisted (who could blame her.) but eventually did. She let us know that he read at almost a 2ND grade level. Did I say he was 4?


**I’d love to post video’s we have of him doing some of this amazing stuff but I can’t make it feel right in my head.

**The flashcards referenced in this post are: Easy Site Words. Sets 1 and 2 by Frank Schaffer Publications

**I should also add that B never sounded out words. He just never did. He would just say them. I didn't know until later when other children were learning to read that children tend to sound out words to read.

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