Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Five Year Old Brain and Sound Symbols

Emma is learning to read using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We've started and stopped several times since she was 4 1/2 or so. This time we haven't had to take a lot of breaks or repeat lessons. We do about 4-5 lessons in a week, one a day (so most days we have one.) (Bridey is allowed to do reading if she wants to but only if she asks, which so far is about once every 2 weeks. She does well when we do them though! I ask Emma if she's ready for reading most days. Most days she says "Yes" but if she says "No" I don't force her. Some days she brings me the book eager to do it at that time, so we do it then.)

She's at the point (lesson 16) where I can see things really beginning to click in her mind. She's starting to really get the concept of "sound it out"-- say the sounds on the page without stopping, and they are strung together into words! Amazing! Her face lights up when she comprehends that she just read a word all on her own. Having seen when her brain wasn't quite ready for it, and seeing how quickly the lights turn on, so to speak, when she is ready, it's amazing to think about the capacity of a human brain to make symbols for language and learn to interpret them.

I mean, language in itself is amazing. We not only have the physical ability to make sounds, but to express complex thought through a series of them strung together and assigned a meaning-- and once we start learning the meaning of these sounds we have an almost unlimited capacity to learn more. Learning a new set of sounds (another language) is more tricky, but the younger we do it the better we are at it.

And we've learned to make written symbols for these sound-symbols. Having worked a bit with adults who did not learn to read as children, and watching a child in the prime learning-to-read age, children have it so much easier! The quickness with which the connections are formed and the interest in forming them seem to come together at this time in a conjunction that is very fruitful-- she learns the lesson and it really changes her whole though pattern, without her consciously re-training it, just by repeating what I say and playing these little "games" with me.

I don't remember learning to read, really. By the time I was 4 I was sounding out words, by kindergarten I was immediately placed in the highest reading group-- the kids who came in already reading, or very close to it. So I don't really remember this wonder, this lighting up of the whole being at being able to read. But it's great to watch it in her. It's marvelous, in fact. It really cements my happiness that I chose to be the one to do this with her, not send her away from me to have someone else do it. I'm loving seeing her make connections and learn things every day. I can't wait until she's a strong enough reader to read books on her own and come to me and discuss what she read in them-- comprehending these little symbols really does open up the whole world of stories, thoughts, and ideas. I am, in fact, thrilled to have front-row tickets to watch her journey.