I have been wracking my brain, trying to determine how much of a part I may have played in Tabitha's reading skills, or if she is just gifted this way. I know I don't want to push her or hold her back. At the same time Amelia is almost three and I want to make sure, if there was anything specific I did to help Tabitha, that I don't miss opportunities with Amelia. So I started to jot down some of the things that I did with Tabitha these past four years.
For starters I read her loads and loads of books. And I read loads and loads of books myself. The experts say that is recommended. Seems to have helped.
Some of my favorite books to have read to her are the Readers Digest Sesame Street Alphabet books that had belonged to Krystal. I still remember the day she demonstrated to me that she was understanding and recognizing letters. I had the O book, Oscar's Ode to O and she knew by the cover (which is just the letter O) that Oscar was going to be in this book. She also recognized and pointed out some o's in the book itself. I love how these books focus on one letter in each book. Words that begin with the target letter are highlighted. They are not easy to find, but if you can get your hands on them, I would recommend it. If you don't have a problem with Sesame Street that is.
I am not sure if our introduction of sign language helped at all, but I know it didn't hinder. She was speaking in 11 word sentences before the age of 2 (I believe) and using some interesting vocabulary correctly (perforation, for example).
At first I wasn't trying to "teach" her. Things just came along spontaneously, as they still do. Some of our best learning is done spontaneously, especially at meal times. The first time I tried something educational on purpose was a "P" lunch. This was way before I had even heard of blogging. At the same time I also started doing more crafts with her, lots of them ending up being one to one counting crafts as well. Around Christmas of 2008, before she turned 2, I had read a book called Native Reading: How to Teach Your Child to Read, Easily and Naturally, Before the Age of Three by Timothy Kailing.
While I do not agree with everything stated in this book I did find some great tips. I started making some word cards out of cardboard with magnet strip glued on the back. I asked my mom to get her magnetic letters and letter blocks for Christmas. We played with words and with letters.
I am not sure how long after this I found the letter of the week website, but I expanded what we were doing with some of the ideas on there. I used her recommendations for books and poems and composers for each letter. I made a poster and word cards (like we do now, though I have changed it up a bit). She recommended showing the cards during the day. I did that occasionally, but tended to forget. I wasn't sure how I felt about that anyway. I didn't want her memorizing the card, I wanted her to be able to sound out the words.
A favorite game I played with her, which I learned at the Montessori goes like this (I have mentioned this on the blog before): "I hear 'mmmm' when I say 'mommy' 'moon' 'mouse'" etc. It was so exciting when the girls learned to chime in with words.
It has been so important to me to stress the sound of the letter, not the letter name. This is definitely a recommendation for different phonics based programs. We did it at the Montessori, it was recommended in Barbara Curtis's book, Mommy, Teach Me to Read!, it is emphasized in the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons book. It makes perfect sense. A problem I have with the Weaver Curriculum's teaching to read instructions is her insistence on teaching the letter names first and the way she says she can't understand why people would want to rush children by teaching the sounds first. From my experience, knowing the sounds is what is important. The game I described above was done at the Montessori while showing the letter. At home, with the girls, I have done it for pure phonemic awareness. Hearing the sound. Of course we do it while I show the letter too, but the knowledge of the sounds themselves is essential. Being able to distinguish them by hearing them. Then the children can see the correlation when you say the sound while showing the letter.
On the other hand, I have seen it mentioned in Montessori materials that the sound should be stressed with out the name of the letter. I compromise. I do both. I want the girls to know the sound it makes, but I also want them to know the letter name. There has been no confusion with this method. Amelia knows most of her letters and the sounds they make.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, which will bring us into a time when I was being more deliberate in my teaching of the letters.
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