Friday, July 24, 2009

A very fun and interesting question about early reading

Over at Still Life with Cat. What was your first ever reading experience?

I only remember reading books. Despite being a Great Reader, I don't think I was at all an early reader. I remember writing all kinds of random squiggles and pretending it was writing just before I started school, and feeling quite stressed about whether or not I would be able to learn to read and whether I would be able to write my name effectively.

Obviously all the reading out loud my parents did when I was but a babe did kick in, though, because I remember learning to read very quickly indeed once I actually made it to school. At that stage we still had Dick and Jane books and funny little books that included pictures for some of the words. I hated those intensely, because I already knew that a picture of ducks meant 'ducks' but I felt I could do with learning the word for it. They were tiny, cute books with covers hardly thicker than a playing card. The covers were soft from being handled for so many years. I would love to have one now because the type and the illustrations were beautiful. I am surprised I can remember something I loathed so much with such nostalgic affection. Little nostalgic affection for Dick and Jane, though.

The Noodle kind of learned to read about the same time he learned to talk. The lag was hardly noticeable. As a result, he has no memory of learning the alphabet or learning how print or text works. As far as he knows, he's always known how it works and how to extract meaning and entertainment from it. He had a phenomenal memory for words when he was a toddler, and pretty much learned how to say new words by their resemblance to ones he already knew. Phonics at school really helped his pronounciation, though. Up until then he had that real reader's thing of learning the meaning of word by context and by similarity to other words, but no knowledge of how to say things out loud.

I remember this a lot myself as an older child - I still have to think twice about how to say archipelago correctly. The Noodle, with a much greater geographical and political awareness than I ever had can say archipelago correctly. He knows a lot about Indonesia, apparently. I learned about archipelagos from Ursula Le Guin and thought they were as much a fantasy trope as magic rings and self-doubt.

I hope Pavlov's Cat writes a fabulous book on early reading. I'd love to hear about the diversity of experience, and the good and bad memories people have. And I just know that I'll pass on second-hand anecdotes about it for years to come. Yay!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this information with us !

I believe It is always wise refering to a reading guide before choosing a good book for your kid.

Penthe said...

Hmmmm. I don't know that it is always wise to refer to a reading guide before choosing a good book for my kid. For one thing, I don't always know the opinions and ideas of the reading guide authors and for another it would slow down the process. So I pretty much set him loose in the appropriate section of the library or bookshop and let him choose what he wants to read. I trust him, he'll check with me if he's not sure about something.

But thanks for the link to the reading guide - I'll pop over and have a look, because I do adore getting ideas for books that I am not familiar with (for the junior and for myself).

Man O'Sand said...

I can't remember starting to read but I know that one of the sisters, Michelle, at some early stage started buying me a Little Golden Book every week and I think it began from there.
I was a freak for Australian history, ok it was the limited Australian history that was discussed in the late 70s, by the time I was the Noodle's age. Extensive road trips and reading meant I could tell you all about Leichhardt and Flinders and LBW but very little about the archipelago of Indonesia. Once again trumped by The Noodle.

Revie said...

I remember reading during first grade, which would be around 5 years old, and being stumped by the word "answer" because of the "w". Some other child shouted out the correct word before me (I think it was flashcard practice) and that vexed me enough to make me remember it. It takes someone with time to work with a beginning reader, and I don't think with 4 kids my mother or father bothered with private coaching before we started grade school.

Both of my girls were reading way before school, which made the earlier grades a bit boring for them as the rest of the class learned letters and such. Oldest daughter started talking at 9 months old, so she was verbal long before she was literate.

I don't think I ran across "archipelago" until I read Solzhenitsyn. Noodle has me there. :)

Shayne Parkinson said...

I don't remember leaning to read, but it must have happened fairly soon after I started school (aged five). In those long-ago days in New Zealand, it was unheard-of for children to learn to read (beyond simple things like one's name, perhaps) before starting school, so if any had they probably kept it quiet. Being a "show off" was anathema.

I remember pronouncing ballet as ballette, orangutan as orange-outang, and miscellaneous with a hard c. I think I've stopped now.

Anonymous said...

Like Shayne, I didn't read before starting school, but got going pretty quickly once I was there. I think my mum was too busy with my younger siblings to give me any early lessons - even though she was a primary school teacher herself.

I remember that books always had to have pictures to interest me - and if they didn't have a picture in every double spread at least, that the block of text would put me off. But when I was in hospital aged 6, someone gave me a Famous Five book to read.' Five Get Into a Fix' if I remember rightly. I thought it looked too 'grown-up' - until I started reading. And then.... I was away! My real life of reading had begun.