Growing a Reader From Birth

It was difficult to process the information in this book, simply because there was a lot of it.

Diane McGuiness explains a lot in this book about children 0-5 years and makes her cases with scientific studies. It makes sense that when infants like something, they use their sucking reflex to share that.

Most of the book was dedicated to speaking to babies, what they understand, and how they learn to speak. The author explains each stage and what the parent is likely to see, not just based on age, but also on ability. For example, there’s a language explosion around 18 months, but it is less about the age of the child and more when he hits 50 words in his spoken vocabulary.

Toward the end of the book the Author first mentions the child reading. She asserts children may be distracted by pictures in  books and not understand the essence of the story. Also, she talks about the importance of telling stories to the child along with having him tell stories to the parent.

The last chapter dealt with a whole world, whole language and phonics dissertation. I’ve never been a fan of whole world teachings, and she gave concrete reasons why it doesn’t work to learn to read: basically, the mind can only memorize so many words if they are treated as random strings of letters. She used history to show that the languages that have a ‘whole word’ concept maxed out around 2000 words, compared to the approximately 50,000 words needed to carry on an adult conversation.

Every language that survived has used a method of breaking down the words into a “Basic Code” to decipher written material. English has 40 sounds, and only 26 letters – which she says could have been used more effectively. I don’t know anyone who could argue that.

I think the most out-there argument was at the very end, talking about how dyslexia is not a real disability. The author stated her reasons for believing this, but I do not know enough about dyslexia to know.

Don’t jump all over me – but here is her argument:
She states dyslexia does not exist except in English-speaking countries who have used whole word or whole language strategies to teach reading. It must not be a brain disability if it doesn’t exist in nearly the same percentages around the world. Therefore, dyslexia is a created problem that can be fixed, in her argument, with phonics.

It definitely gives something to think about. My one-year-old makes me understand her, and I know she gets more of what I say than she can say back to me. How much? That is always the question.

Reading to Baby

I try to do this every day. Sometimes it’s difficult to choose the right books to read.

Writing and reading are related activities. I think about everyone agrees that reading to your children is a great activity to involve the family, but what do you read to your kids?

I vaguely remember the scene from Three Men and a Baby where Tom Selleck is reading to the baby from a sports magazine and telling one of the other guys, “It doesn’t matter what you read, what matters is the tone you use.”

Finding books on the subject isn’t too difficult. I’ve been reading Baby Read-Aloud Basics and I have another book on the subject that I haven’t perused yet. (love the library- they feed my brain!) They had it partly right. The tone does matter.

But it also matters what you read. Reading is giving your child a solid foundation of language. It’s also why you’re supposed to talk to the baby all the time. (even though it’s really hard when you never get coherent answers.) This is how the baby learns to speak, and the more you can do it, the better off the baby will be.

I know, that’s speaking. Reading is just as important though. Those books that you cart around have words you don’t always hear in regular conversations. It’s a wonderful way to boost the vocabulary. Yes, I mean baby books. No, I don’t mean Dr. Seuss.

Don’t think I’m knocking Dr. Seuss, though. He wrote wonderful books, but they’re for the beginning reader. (Proudly marked on their covers that way.) The beginning reader isn’t looking for tough things to say or read, just to gain familiarity. If we only read beginning reader books to our children, we aren’t giving them as many different, complex, learning tools for their vocabulary as we could be.

So one question is, when looking for a book for your baby: Will you be reading it, or will the child? Don’t shy away from books with larger words in them. What’s wrong with¬†fuchsia for a color or exhilarating for a description when the adult is reading it to the baby? Absolutely nothing! If you never introduce your little one to those words, they’ll never know them.

It almost makes me want to read my dictionary to her, but not quite. Now if it had some pretty pictures…