Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Learning to Read

I'm listening to an extended discussion on Talk of the Nation about the Baby Einstein videos, whether videos increase infant intelligence, and how best to teach children to read.  You know, I learned to read by the time I was 3 or 4.  My grandmother taught me; she'd sit with me on her lap, and read me the Sears, Roebuck catalog.  It doesn't take a video to teach a child to read, in fact, it's almost certainly counter-productive.  It takes a parent or other adult, some kind of reading material, and a small child.  You could probably teach a child to read from the sports section of the newspaper.


  1. My father would bring home comic books and MAD Magazine, and I learned to read from that. Also from the daily crossword answers in the paper, trying to figure out what was a word and what wasn't. (I mean, come on, "EPEE"? That couldn't be a word! But why does it appear every day?)

  2. I do a lot of crossword puzzles, and I've noticed that certain words go in and out of fashion. "Epee" appears every day because it's useful - all those e's give you a wide range of crosswords to choose from.

  3. I eventually decided "epee" is crossword writer's code for "I am lazy." Especially when the clue, EVERY time, is "Foil."

  4. I think of crossword puzzles the same way I do about dizzyingly complex card games--a skill with literally no other application. Who needs it?

    I learned to read at age 5 out of self-defense: My parents would punish me if I didn't succeed.

    I taught my son to read at 3--easiest thing in the world. I think he could have learned even earlier. Foreign language, however, that's a different story. Some people can learn foreign languages like kids who can swim as infants. Others?...well, you know.

  5. I need crossword puzzles, since you ask. They calm me when I'm upset; I often use them to wind down before going to bed. They force me to exercise my brain. I enjoy them.

    Sure, most kids can learn to read at 3, given regular attention from an adult. It's also been well demonstrated that any small child who is regularly exposed to two languages from infancy will grow up fluently bilingual, but learning a second language after the age of (I think) around 5-7 is more problematic.

  6. Brian Eno is a gift to all crossword puzzle constructors.

    And, in fact, I did learn to read by looking at the Sports page. Not a bad way to learn.