Watching my son learn to read…

Fils aîné is learning to read. There’s nothing remarkable about that – children do it all the time. And yet it’s more than remarkable – it’s amazing. And it’s fascinating to watch. After ages stuck at the level of recognising letters but not wanting to put them together into words, suddenly school has lit the blue touchpaper and woomph! There are the school “book bag books”, his own books, library books, fils cadet‘s books to be read. (It’s rather nice to wake up in the morning and hear him read stories to his little brother.) And there are signs, packets, bottles, letters, words everywhere:

“Mummy, that says ‘can bank’. Why does it say ‘can bank’, Mummy?”; “Mummy, that says ‘stop’!”; “Mummy, does that bottle say ‘wake up naked’?”

The shower gel in question. Apparently, it also does sky diving…

Then the other day it was:

“Mummy, why aren’t you reading your book?”
“I am reading it!”
“No you’re not – you’re just looking at it!”

He’s seen us reading silently hundreds of times before, but it was only on that occasion that he noticed that there was something odd about it, that it’s not the way he reads. Something else has just clicked in his brain.

Watch the process of him reading is also enlightening – his eyes dart all over the page taking in the information from the pictures as well as the words. This can lead to some wrong conclusions, like the time that “I like to paint pictures. I like to use a paintbrush,” accompanied by a picture of a child using pink paint became “I like to use pink paint”. This also demonstrates his reliance on the first letters of a word – a bit like predictive text! All the same though, he’ll go back and correct himself if he spots a mistake.

It’s such a privilege looking on and encouraging him as he grows in confidence and fluency, and, of course, I’m longing for the day he can discover some of my childhood favourites for himself. After all, he’s getting himself his very own discount ticket to everywhere…

Child reading at Brookline Booksmith
By Tim Pierce (originally posted to Flickr as lost) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

About forwardtranslations

I'm a freelance literary translator from German and French to English. The title of my blog comes from Mary Schmich's description of reading: it struck home with me, and seems especially apt for translated fiction. Here are some of my musings on what I'm reading, re-reading, reading to my children, and translating.
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2 Responses to Watching my son learn to read…

  1. Pingback: It’s a split digraph at school and a magic E at home | a discount ticket to everywhere

  2. Pingback: (Another) Open Letter to Michael Gove | a discount ticket to everywhere

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