I learned to read at age three and have been frustrated that my child hasn’t followed in my footsteps, in that regard–he’s five-and-a-half, and although he’s been acting like he’s about to catch on to reading for a couple of years, he still only recognizes a few short words. Any day now, I expect him to have a sudden flash of comprehension, and then he’ll be able to entertain himself more, which will be great!
Anyway, this morning I happened to think up a little strategy that helped demonstrate to Nicholas both the practical value of reading and how close he is to being able to do it.
He had been disobedient yesterday, repeatedly turning on the television when Daniel (his father) had told him he was not allowed to watch television, so Daniel had unplugged the TV from its power-strip, unplugged the power-strip from the wall, and put it away in the basement.
(There’s actually another handy strategy here: If you behave as though the TV requires a power-strip and cannot be plugged directly into the wall, your child may assume this to be true and not experiment with it! This means that you can disable the TV by taking away the power-strip instead of moving the big heavy TV. We use the power-strip to save electricity: shutting it off stops the TV from drawing any power, whereas if it’s plugged into the wall it uses some watts to “look” for signals from the remote. We plug our VCR and DVD player into that power-strip, too, but at times when we’re not using them for a while we unplug them completely; why power those LEDs and remote-sensors for no reason?)
Anyway, this morning Nicholas was behaving well, and I was willing to let him watch a couple of PBS Kids shows but not willing to delay my breakfast to go down to the dusty workshop area of the basement and dig up the power-strip. He actually didn’t ask me to do that for him, just asked me to unlock the door to the basement steps. He went down but came back up a moment later.
NICK: I can’t find the power-strip.
MAMA: Hmm, I know we have several of them down there.
NICK: But where are they exactly?
MAMA: In the box labeled, “Power Strips” on the shelves near the corner, straight ahead from the stairs.
NICK: (starts toward stairs, pauses) How am I supposed to know which box says, “Power Strips”?
MAMA: Well, this is where knowing how to read comes in very handy.
NICK: (after a moment’s thought) Does “Puh-OW-WWRR” start with a P and then a W and R?
MAMA: That’s right!
NICK: (goes downstairs, returns one minute later carrying power-strip) I found the box of Puh-OW-WWRR SS-tuh-RR-ip-SS!!! I found the same one we were using for the TV before. But look, Daddy plugged it into itself! That’s not good! The electricity going in a circle will burn it out!!
MAMA: Um, no, that doesn’t happen. There’s no electricity in it unless the plug is plugged into an outlet.
I like his theory–almost as interesting as last night’s assertion that the pleasant aroma outdoors in the evenings is “grasshopper sweat”–but I really like the way he figured out for himself how to recognize the words written on the cardboard box where the spare power-strips are stored. I think he already knows more about reading than he’s letting on, and when he starts kindergarten it will all come together.