By: Julie Gamberg
I love reading, and books, and language. I like academia and I’m a bit of a (non-technical) geek. Which means, research shows, that it is very important that I do not push my child in any of those directions, and instead allow her to slowly, developmentally, find her way to her own academic interests. So I resist my inner-desire to help her read at three, as I did. I resist my desire to point out letters, and sounds, and teach her the ABC’s. In fact, so great is my resistance, that we do not even sing the ABC song in my household. Where academic learning is involved, we’re a no-fly zone. It’s all developmental around here.
Or it was.
Somewhere, somehow, just this week, my daughter heard the ABC song. And she loved it! And she started requesting it. A lot. The first day she requested it, she asked me to sing it perhaps, no joke, 50 times. She wanted it for diaper changes. She wanted it in the car. She wanted it for her lullaby.
Two days later, she had not tired of the ABC song. My moratorium had taken a hit. And then, a startling bit of academic development happened. I opened the refrigerator with her in my arms, and she pointed to a plastic tub of S-A-L-S-A, put her fingers on the words, and said “ABC’s.”
Now I realize that all of you with children older than mine (she’s 16 months) have already experienced these learning surges that seem to come from the ether. One moment she doesn’t know something, nor does she know the first thing about it, and the next moment she’s the resident expert.
But still, the alphabet?? Letters? Letters which later make words which then make lines of poetry, or sentences, which lead to brilliant ideas, short stories, and novels? In our non-academic, play-based, developmental household?
I had a brief internal struggle and then thought: Okay, hold onto your onesie, because if ABC’s you want, ABC’s you’ll get. Since last week, I’ve begun to sound out some letters when we read, to say the title of the book and then to re-read it, saying each letter one by one. She pays closer attention to the letters-part of the title and often asks me to do them again.
I know that there may come a point, possibly very soon, when she loses interest in letters, numbers, words, the alphabet. And I hope to remain as committed to play-based learning at that point, as I am now. To leave her with a few vowels in one pocket and a couple of consonants in the other and ignore reading for as long as they do in Sweden (age seven!). But, as long as she is asking for it, demanding it, delighting in it…then a moratorium on the moratorium! For this moment, I am following my child’s lead.
I’m grateful for my knowledge of developmental theory and my continual research which tells me that I have not been given carte blanche to push as hard as I can from now until my daughter is safely deposited at the doorstep of an ivy league college with a full scholarship. This means that even if she retains a childhood-long interest in academics, it will still be child-led, and as much as possible, play-based. But I’m equally grateful for moments when I can see past the general and hear who my kid is telling me she is. And for this moment, she is, like me, a person who loves reading, and books, and language.
[Photo Credit: camknows]