Many of you have preschoolers, and your stories and pictures remind me of when my girls were small and how much I enjoyed every minute of it. I know I can’t turn back time, but I would so go through all of it again just for the joy of seeing the world through the eyes of a child. Maybe I just really miss Barney and Sing-Along-Songs and reading “Good Night, Moon” countless times. Oh, the fun we had! We have many of the girls’ antics (recorded for Posterity, whoever that is) on video tape, and they enjoy watching themselves at that age as much as I do.
When I was a kid, we didn’t have camcorders, but my mom recorded most of our “firsts” in our baby books. One of the entries in mine is a picture of me at 2 holding a book. The caption says I was reading, but my mom says I had only memorized the words. I don’t know how old I was when I did learn to read, but I do remember my great aunt having me sit on her lap reading to her before I started school. I remember the kid in first grade who insisted that I had failed the year before because I was the best reader in class. I didn’t even know what failed meant. All I knew was that I loved to read, and I had been taught at home.
So began my love affair with the written word. I wanted to instill this same love for learning in my kids. I refused to use baby-talk with them. It didn’t make any sense to me to deliberately teach them to mispronounce words and have to re-teach them later to say them correctly. When Lindsey first started talking, she would repeat everything we said, and I wanted her to know the correct names for things even if she couldn’t pronounce them. If she said “bah-bah” she knew she meant bottle and so did I.
We watched Wheel-of-Fortune regularly, and she’d sit there and call out “E!” when the contestants were guessing letters, so I started teaching her the other letters. She liked this game, so after she learned to say the alphabet, I started spelling words for her to learn. She’d dance around the kitchen sing-songing “S-T-O-P stop, G-O go, Y-E-S yes, N-O no”. She had just turned two. I read to her every night, and she would “read” right along with me, turning the page at the appropriate time. Yes, she had the books memorized. One day on the way to daycare, she spotted a sign and said “Alright! Taco Bell!” I had to laugh because she had never even been there. OK, so she’s watching too much television, but she read a sign! I know she didn’t really read it, but she made the connection. We were on a roll! I bought flash cards so I could teach her to recognize the letters that she loved to sing.
By the time she was 3, she knew all the letters and the sounds they make. When she actually did read her first word, the look on her face was priceless. We had pulled up to a stop sign, and I asked her if she knew what the sign said. “I don’t know” was her answer. I told her to look at the letters and say them out loud. She said “S–T–O–P STOP! Mama, it says stop!” How proud she was of herself when she realized she could read. She couldn’t wait to get home and read all of her books to me.
I did the same thing with Sarah, and both of them were reading above grade level before they started kindergarten. I didn’t really think it was so unusual, but one day when I went in to pick them up from the after-school program, the teacher in charge said “You’re Sarah’s mom, aren’t you? I’ve heard all about how well she can read. How did you do that?” That may have been one of my proudest moments.
I also remember how preschoolers can wear you out, leaving you feeling so frazzled at the end of the day that the last thing you want to do is read the same book again, especially when she can recite the whole thing herself. So let me encourage you to do it anyway, because your child will benefit from it, and his teacher will thank you.