I mentioned recently that the daughter had become somehow convinced that upon the moment of her turning four, she would suddenly be able to whistle. We tried to explain to her that this wasn’t quite how things worked, but to no avail. And, of course, she woke up on her birthday still unable to whistle.
She had, however, suddenly gained the ability to read.
This isn’t entirely unprecedented in my family. We were all quite unaware that my brother Kip had learned to read as a small child, until he sat down to breakfast one day and read out the back of a cereal box.
I am, of course, thrilled that she’s reading. I haven’t been exactly silent in my longing for the point when she’d be able to occupy herself with a book, instead of with asking me questions. But more than that, I know how much pleasure I got from reading as a child, and I’m excited for her to be able to experience that. Of course, right now she’s mostly reading sentences like, “A cat is a good pet,” and “A dog can run and walk and sit,” but it’s only a matter of time.
Several of my friends have asked me what I did to encourage such early reading. Sadly, I think this one is entirely the daughter’s doing. In fact, the first words she started to recognise, after her name, were signs for shops. Tesco, Marks and Spencer, B&Q, Hobbycraft, she knows them all. Once she got bored of those, she began to insist on having the subtitles on, whenever she watched her favourite programmes. It wasn’t until she started asking questions about why Dr has a capital D, or why know has a silent K at the front, that I realised she was teaching herself to read.
Then, on the morning of her fourth birthday, she sat in our bed and read out every one of her birthday cards. A week later, as we rushed around getting ready for school, she realised we hadn’t read her school library book that week, and it was due in that day. I sent her to fetch it, and told her to look through it while I finished emptying the dishwasher, then I’d read it to her.
By the time I’d put away all the dishes, she was ready to read it to me.
I mentioned it to her teacher, of course, who said, “Ah, yes. Actually, I put a sheet up on the whiteboard the other day about a polar bear, and she read it out before I could.”
So we procured some Stage 1 reading books from the Reception class, and yesterday we took them with us on an important Lemon Pie research trip to the coffee shop (it’s for a book! Honest!)
Once she’d finished her pie (pictured above) she pulled out the books and read them to me. Without pause, without difficulty. I was very proud. And a little terrified.
We’ve always read to the daughter, of course, and she’s always loved books. When she started getting interested in the alphabet, we picked up some phonics dvds that she’s watched so many times we can all recite them by heart. She has a couple of books designed to help develop reading, and we’ve done a bit with them, but not much.
Basically, I think she just got bored of not being able to decipher all the words around her, on signs, in buildings, in books, and decided it was time to learn.
She’ll be writing her own books before long. Just you wait and see.