There is perhaps nothing better than helping young children learn to read. The wonder in a child’s eyes as she begins to understand that the pictures and words of a beloved book she knows by heart are written in those squiggly lines right there on the page is remarkable! Watching a child learn this secret is delightful to the child, parent and teacher alike.
Talking to a child from the moment of birth is the beginning of literacy. As we talk to them, children quickly come to understand much about the world.
I got to hold a seven-month-old over the weekend during a busy dinner party while her mother ate dinner and visited with other guests. Immediately Amelia and I fell into a cadence. Amelia would notice something in the room around us. She would lock her eyes on it and reach for whatever it was. As she did, I began telling her something about this new thing.
When Amelia noticed a flower arrangement, I said, “Vase. Leaf. Flower,” I repeated these words again and again, allowing Amelia to lead the way. As she looked from one part of the arrangement to the next, touching each part, I named them for her.
A baby’s ability to focus on a thing and explore it with eyes, ears, or fingers never ceases to amaze me. After Amelia had explored the vase, leaf, and flower several times, I pulled her back a bit. Then I said, “Vase.” Her eyes darted to the vase. Amazed and delighted, I said, “Flower.” Again, her eyes bounced up to look at the flower. We played this game until her attention wandered, and we moved on to something else.
I was struck by the powerful learning that opened to Amelia as I simply watched and responded to her. She led the way. All I needed to do was let her, then suggest a next step, something else she could know. She responded. She learned. Beautiful.