Monday, October 5, 2009

The synapses fire

We had the very exciting experience yesterday of realizing that River
can correctly identify letters in Spanish. I had an inkling this
might be coming when we took a walk a few days ago. When he saw
letters spraypainted on the sidewalk, he’d stop and it seemed he was
trying to read them. I identified each one for him and he was
interested and attentive.

Then, yesterday, he stood in front of the refrigerator, where we has
his Leap Frog letter toy in Spanish (a super toy for ages 1+ by the
way). He said ‘ennay,’ which is N in Spanish.

“Can you find N?” I asked.

He looked at the letters spread across the refrigerator door and
chose the correct one.

A visiting friend said to him, “My name is Dave. It starts with a D.”

“Can you find “De?” I asked him.

And again, he found the correct letter and brought it to Dave.

We tried this a few more times until we were convinced it wasn’t just
chance, he really knows his letters.

This makes me very excited. All evidence of brain synapse connections
excite me. But this one does so especially. Why? Because it’s the
first step towards literacy and reading. And because it shows that
there is a lot more going on in that head than he can express

He has been crazy about books lately, requesting a good 15 storybooks
a day and getting very upset if he’s denied his request. I’m both
happy about this interest and sometimes frustrated. I never thought
I’d refuse to read to my child. But sometimes my voice is tired out
after 6-8 books and I just don’t want to do another.

So far, we haven’t done anything special in our reading. The
babysitter and I read to him in Spanish, Mark and anyone else who
happens to be around read to him in English. He attends the
English-language story (1/2) hour at the library 2-3 times a week and
attends the once weekly Spanish story (1/2) hour when it’s available.

Recently I heard about a technique called print referencing though,
which seems to have positive effects in enhancing preschool literacy.
From what I’ve read (there is an interesting article by Zucker, Ward
and Justice in the September 2009 issue of The Reading Teacher. The
article is titled “Print Referencing During Read-Alouds: A Technique
for Increasing Emergent Readers’ Print Knowledge.”) the technique basically involves pointing out print in the course of reading, by doing things like asking them to find a certain letter in the text, asking where the print or the book starts, asking what could be in the text bubble, saying that we’ll read the traffic signs now,
etc. The article offers quite a few suggestions.

Now that I can see River is interested in text, I think I’ll start
employing some of these techniques. It doesn’t sound like it takes
too much time or effort and if it increases the chances of him being
an earlier reader, all the better. We’re just pleased that he may show
a talent for something beyond eating.

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