Part 1 here.
It all started with a box of Eric Carle flashcards. I’m a big fan of Carle’s illustrations, so I snatched up several items within the first year of having a baby. Originally, I had hopes of using the flashcards as decoration in Wito’s room, but little did I know that he would develop a huge affinity for those cards around 9 months old. While surrounded by blocks and trains and squishy noisemakers, Wito always gravitated to those flashcards. He would sit quietly for large chunks of time, just flipping the cards over and over, staring at the letter and the corresponding word and illustration. Honestly, I didn’t think much of it. I would occasionally repeat the letters and the words to him, and he seemed to love the exercise of repetition. It was our little game.
Around 15-16 months, Wito started to recognize certain letters and enunciate their sounds. This seemed a little crazy to me, mainly because he didn’t really have many words yet. “Mama,” “dada,” and “ball” were the only words he was using at the time, yet he could point to a letter and tell me what it was. I decided at that point to break the letters up into groupings, with vowels being the first to focus on. As you can see in the video, at 16 months, he was recognizing all the vowels, and within the following month, he had an explosion of memory ability, resulting in being able to accurately recognize and enunciate all 26 letters of the alphabet in random order at 17 months old.
Here’s a video summarizing Wito’s first 2 years on the road to reading.
At this point, I was wondering if this behavior was developmentally advanced or if it was just par for the course. Wito was my first child, and our pediatrician at the time seemed too busy to address our questions and/or concerns. I spent many a night googling “early readers” and “toddler letter recognition” just to get a little footing – really, to see what I could do as a parent to help foster Wito’s emerging skills, and make sure I was doing “the right thing.” (Oh, the joys of being a first time parent! AM I DOING IT RIGHT? AM I DOING IT RIGHT?) At that point, I made the conscious decision to let Wito guide me through the process. No pushing, no trying to put him in a mold…just doing activities and exercises he seemed to enjoy. Wito naturally gravitated to flash cards, books, memory games…really anything that allowed him to memorize something.
Hmmm. So! What does this all mean? Are you seeing similar traits in your child? How can you help foster and develop this emerging trait?
For this specific post in the series, I am going to focus on activities and toys that we used around ages 1-2, although they can all be used well past that age. Here’s a list of what we loved and worked well with Wito at this young age.
Flashcards – We have SO MANY sets of flashcards. It was Wito’s very favorite activity in the world at that age – just flipping those cards over and over. We purchased all different types – letters, numbers, animals, favorite things, etc. You guys, I could start a flashcard museum. It’s sick. (There are great flash card apps for iPhones and iPads too, but that’s a whole separate post. Stay tuned!)
Stacking blocks – Although I can’t find the specific ones we loved, blocks with a color and a letter on them are fantastic. Once Wito was comfortable recognizing letters, we started learning colors as well. Plus, the blocks helped to encourage Wito’s fine motor skills. (Something I will talk about later in the series…very early readers can sometimes have challenges in that department.)
Board books – Obviously, books were KEY. Wito wanted to “read” at least 15-20 books a day. We tried to buy books that were sturdy, had thick enough pages to ensure that pudgy little fingers could easily turn them, and used uncomplicated words or phrases. Some of our favorites were the Flip-a-Face series, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, and Leslie Patricelli books.
Educational DVDs – Wito lived for Signing Times. Lived for it! I will not be surprised at all if the kid marries someone who looks exactly like Rachel Coleman. Not only did Wito learn how to communicate with us using signs as a baby, but he could also see the word written out on the screen and start to correlate how the two fit together as he grew older.
Wow. Still with me? Are you awake over there? If so, I’ll be back next week with more thoughts and tips for the next stage in early literacy, transitioning from memorization to comprehension. In the meantime, please feel free to ask me anything in regards to early reading. I can only really draw from personal experience, but I’d be happy to address any thoughts and/or concerns. (Like what happens when your 3-year-old yells out “THIS TAMPON BOX SAYS SUPER, MOM! LIKE A SUPER HERO?? I WANT TAMPOOONNNNS!” at your local Costco.)