B is reading! Actually reading.
I knew this moment would come, but I was still quite surprised when it did. His delight at putting letters and sounds together to read books (and in many cases, new words) is totally infectious. And so addictive, he’s even neglected his “first love” – vehicles that is, not his mommy! He still enjoys reading about them though, like this simple early readers series below.
Lately, he wants to read when he wakes, on the road, while eating, after school, before sleeping so besides lugging books around, we also play mommy’s “crack the code” game. All you need is a paper and pen, get them to decipher word sequences (e.g. TO, TOP, STOP; GO, GOD, DOG; WOO (our family name), WOOD, GOOD, FOOD, COOK, etc.), and if there’s time, especially those long family dinners out, ask them to make a story or draw a picture from all of that!
Best of all, this happened naturally. No pressure, no expectations. It’s been a fun journey to get to this point, yet I feel like we’re just at the end of the beginning. What we did was to start young (B had his first library card at 7 weeks!), surround him with books (we borrow more than we buy), highlight print in our daily environment, talk and read regularly together. I then followed his lead, introducing things at his own pace with help from our “village” of hands-on caregivers, a must-have for working moms. The grandparents who are avid library goers, and nursery teachers who reinforced phonics via Letterland, were open to suggestions beyond the “curriculum” – which lists reading as a 5 year old target. I also remember this book about language development that influenced my views with its easy yet systematic approach in the early years: From awareness, to recognition, from sight reading by memory, to pretend reading while tracking words, and finally, actual reading.
His breakthrough in English reading has also motivated us in Chinese. I want B to grow up effectively multilingual – but that hasn’t been as easy because we can’t replicate the basics at home: I’m not as comfortable reading and improvising in Chinese, no one else at home uses it regularly, and frankly, recognising Chinese characters relies heavily on memorisation. But since deciphering words gets B motivated lately, we’ve revived his interest using level-appropriate bilingual or hanyupinyin material. His Chinese is in the 0-3 year toddler range, unlike his English proficiency – a great reminder how important immersion is, and also how we need to customise and be flexible with our kids!
We repurpose Chinese flash cards as a game:
We look for interactive story and activity books that come with stickers, puzzles, tracing and number games. Some good ones can be found at Popular or through Flip For Joy:
Unfortunately with Chinese, there’s no easy “code to crack” so I’ve turned to enrichment for further immersion beyond his exposure in school and our limited time at home. There’s been slow though steady improvement, and we’re exploring new options this year. I’ll probably write more on this once we’ve experienced what works best. Meanwhile, as Chinese self-discovery doesn’t come so naturally for us, we try to build on words he’s learnt already or books he’s reading, like this early readers book series which has a page with hanyupinyin at the back for banana-mamas like me
And so our language journey continues. Along the way, we relish how reading unlocks his imagination and gets him thinking in new ways. For example: One of the first books we lap-read together when he was a baby was Herve Tullet’s “Press Here.” It’s since been a springboard to introduce colours, actions, Chinese, board games and even inspired his recent Art Jam at school.
Books are made of endless possibilities. Read on!
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