Posts filed under ‘Infants’

We all started somewhere

IMG_0743You may have wondered where I’ve been. Or maybe you didn’t wonder at all. Or maybe you found this blog more recently and figured it’s another poor, defunct, abandoned idea. Well, not to worry – I’m here and I’ve been busy: There’s a new Little Learning Girl in the family! Which means I should probably come up with better pen names to avoid confusion.

I look at Littlest Learning Girl and marvel at how much she has accomplished in just a couple of months. Besides pooping through every piece of cloth in the house, I mean

  • where to find food and how to get it out (she was not born quite knowing this as her big sister was)
  • how to get her hands into her mouth
  • how to swat at toys to make them move and how to kick to bounce her bouncy seat
  • if you move your eyes and head just right, you can go on seeing something even as it moves away
  • you can get a ton of attention if you smile charmingly enough

This stuff is monumental!

Besides making me ponder all the skills we take for granted (how many of us special ed teachers see school-age kids who can’t do the visual tracking one?) it also reminded me how we all started with nothing. We didn’t pop up as social creatures all at once, we started with a fleeting moment of eye contact. Not only weren’t we born readers or talkers, we started with the smallest phonemes.

In a newborn, we call this cute. Somehow, when they come to us in 1st…5th…8th grade missing any of these skills it doesn’t seem quite as cute. Sometimes it even looks rather hopeless. But then we back up and remember that we all got where we are one baby step at a time. And we look for the next step, whatever that is, because it’s the only way you’ll ever get up. You can’t waste time worrying about whether and why you’ll reach the tenth floor or you’ll never even get halfway to one. I don’t know if my students will ever be on grade level, but one thing I’m sure of: If a helpless newborn baby can start with nothing but reflexes and still manage to find a way to learn about the sights, sounds, and feelings of the world, then I really have to believe there’s a way to meet the student where he is and move him on up.

Whether it’s phonemes to syllables
pictures to numbers
objects to pictures
or even just how to smile charmingly.


January 27, 2013 at 10:41 pm Leave a comment

Your Baby Can Read – But Should He?

You have probably seen the ads for this program blinking all over the web in recent years, perhaps especially if you frequent baby-related sites. You may even have been offered a “FREE trial!!!” After seeing that enough times, you might have considered signing up – after all, what do you have to lose? Quite a lot, in fact. Read on.

1. Wasted Time: As the “teach your baby to read” people will be eager to tell you, the first couple of years are a critical window of opportunity for brain development. Toddlers are extremely busy people – mine certainly is. She has a lot to learn. But reading isn’t on her list for another few years. At this stage, it’s much more important for her to play. Playing in age-appropriate ways will help her develop gross and fine motor skills, social skills, and a sense of how stuff works. More on that in future posts.

2. Missing Socialization: Arguably the most important thing for a baby to learn during their “window of opportunity” is how to get along with all those other people in the world. Research shows there are no shortcuts for this. No program will ever substitute for old-fashioned quality time with Mom, Dad, or just about anyone else.

3. Too Much TV: The abovementioned only account for part of the reason the AAP recommends minimal screen time for babies. Besides the missed opportunities, screen time may even be inherently harmful. We might never know for sure, but my gut (and some good empirical studies) tells me this can’t be what G-d had in mind when He made our brains.

4. Wrong Window: Evidence strongly suggests that reading readiness is, at least for many children, a stage of brain development that goes beyond simply learning the skills. If we wait five or six years (approximately, and allowing for individual variations), reading is likely to come more easily, more naturally, and through the right parts of the brain.

5. Burnout: Still not convinced that there’s really much to lose? Studies have shown that children who learn academic skills before the normal developmental time frame are more likely to get sick and tired of them when their peers are just getting fired up. Remember how excited you were to read your first book? Well, I don’t either. But remember how excited your child or student was? Can you visualize that same excitement in someone who’s known how to read since before they were toilet trained?

I could probably go on. Maybe I will sometime. But for now, the above reasons are enough to make me wait. There is no known advantage in knowing how to read a handful of basic words before preschool. Meanwhile, we have other learning to take care of, much of which will actually help pave the way for reading in the not-so-distant future.

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October 23, 2011 at 6:05 am Leave a comment


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