Monday, February 13, 2006

Like Mother, Like Daughter, Like (Grand)Son

Isaac read the word "milk" on Saturday while we were at the grocery store.

He is 21 months old.

He is not involved in any experimental early-reading programs.*

Yes, I know you don't believe me. I wouldn't believe me if I were you either, but it's true.

We were in the baking aisle, with the condensed and powdered milk. We don't use powdered milk. There's a box of it waaaay in the back of my pantry in case of some milk shortage disaster, but as no such disaster has yet occurred, Isaac has not had occasion to be introduced to the concept of milk-as-powder.

Isaac was toddling along in the isle, holding his father's hand. He stopped, and pointed to a box of generic brand powdered milk that had no pictures of anything related to milk on it. He pointed at the letters on the box, that, in a very ordinary sort of typeface, spelled MILK, and said "Milk!"

His dad was there, I was there. WE BOTH SAW IT!

Much to my anti-consumerist chagrin, the boy has already been recognizing certain corporate logos and signs for a couple of months now. It started with Burger King (also known as the only restaurant he is willing to eat things at). One day he pointed to the Burger King logo on a toy he had gotten with a kids meal there, and said "Fries!" I told him that indeed, that was the logo of the place we often went to get fries, but that in fact, it said "Burger King," which was the name of the restaurant, not what they served there.

Now when we go there, he points to the logos on the cups and the bags and says, "Burger King," and smiles at everyone in earshot very proudly. He also recognizes the logos for Sesame Street, Disney, PBS, NBC, and Charter Cable, even though I swear I don't let him watch that much television. He recognizes the Scholastic logo from some of his books (though sometimes he gets confused and calls it "Clifford"). He recognizes the Kraft logo, too, but he calls it "Bag of cheese!" (I have tried to use this confusion to my advantage to get him to try foods made by Kraft that are not, in fact, shredded cheese, but so far I have had no luck in that endeavor).

But recognizing logos, of course, is not quite the same as reading.

He also recognizes and can easily name every letter of the alphabet, as well as numerals from 0-9. He got really good with these a couple of months back when we bought some alphabet and numeral refrigerator magnets.

But knowing the names of letters and numbers is not the same as reading.

And he pretends to read his favorite books himself now, and sometimes remembers to say a fair number of words from the stories.

But repeating words he's heard me read a thousand times because he knows they're supposed to be there is not the same as reading.

This is the first time we have ever seen him actually, seriously, definitively read a word.

I know you probably STILL don't believe me, but I'm recording it here anyway so I can prove to Isaac when he's older that he really DID start reading before he was two, and it's not just that my memories of his early childhood have been clouded in the years since by motherly love.

(By the way-- Sorry I went behind your back and told all those people you talked to about how I started reading before I was two that your memories were just clouded by motherly love, Mom. Touche).

Looks like we might have a third-generation literature major on our hands.

Maybe this one will get lucky and actually have enough discipline to write famous novels!

Of course, I'm pretty sure his dad is still rooting for him to either be a world class hockey player or a computer engineer . . . **

* Unless you count his father's obsession with Wheel of Fortune.
** Edit: Upon reading this, John insists that he only likes watching strangers on skates beat each other up. He claims he does not want acually to see his own son getting beaten by people on skates. But you wouldn't guess this from the way he's taught Isaac to jump up and down screaming "GOAL!" Or from the hockey-themed clothing he has encouraged Isaac to pick out at the store . . .


Andrea said...

Wow, and I thought I was pretty good starting to read at age 4. That's phenomenal! And yes, I do believe you. Kids amaze me every day.

Jaelithe said...

It is phenomenal! And yet, somehow I think I'd trade those advanced reading skills of his for advanced EATING skills in a heartbeat . . .

(After all, my advanced reading skillz just made the other kids in kindergarten want to beat me up, so then they had to skip me to first grade, where all the kids still wanted to beat me up cuz I was little.


Still, at least I can be reassured that his penchant for self-starvation has not yet adversely affected his brain . . .

Lisa said...

Your hubby is a computer engineer? Mine too. How wild.

He's a smart little man. A therapist once told me that kids with SI dysfunction are usually very smart. They don't know if it is because these kids are so sensitive to their environments that they can't help but learn quicker or if the kids start out so much smarter that they can't help but be so sensitive.

I can't wait to see what Issac does next.

Jaelithe said...

At the moment my husband is technically a web developer, but his interest and experience in computers is pretty broad-based. He is always in the middle of teaching himself another programming language, and for a while, before he got the sweet full-time job he has now, he ran a part-time computer repair service out of our home.

I guess there's just something about computer geeks that sends us writing geeks into a swoon ;)

Dawn said...

Actually ( and I am putting on my child development hat now...)

Recognizing logos and associating them with specific words are a very, very important pre-literacy skill. It is actually part of a developmental screen - Can a kid tell you that this is "McDonalds" or "Disney"?

When a child can associate symbols (logos) with words then it is paving the way for the letter/sound relationship that becomes reading later on. Also occuring right now is the concpet of the changeability of a word. Milk, means Milk - but could mean all different types of milk - Chocolate, Strawberry, Coconut etc. Children are realizing that while words have one meaning - they can have many meanings ( Think of a Toddler with the word Ball- for a while , all round things are balls- all animals are dogs, etc) The brains develops and the capacity to hold an image or two images comes into play. Is the round pea a ball? No, but it is round. Are all green things peas - No, nor are they balls...

All right. Sorry to get all Early Childhood there, but I love early language/reading development

Jaelithe said...

Thanks Dawn, that's actually really cool info to know :)

I am very interested in linguistics and literacy. I thought about going into logographic word recognition versus phonetic reading, and talking about kids learning to read in Chinese, etcetera, in the entry, but then I thought I would be getting too technical ;)