Learning to Read

I had promised everyone a list of ten poetry and technology activities, but that will have to wait. Something more important and way cuter has come up.

My son (14 mo) recently decided that books are for reading and not simply for eating. Watching him interact with language has reinforced my connection to Street’s idea of literacy as a social practice.

Baby John’s favorite book is “Spot Loves hiss Daddy” by Eric Hill. While I would like to proclaim his love for the book is a result of pure favoritism that simply is not true. In fact, linguistically, John still uses mama and dada indiscreetly making no distinction between myself, his mother and a lampost. Spot Loves his Daddy just had a tale that wove in his first three discrete words: ball, dog, duck. He can recognize these words in pictures, real-life, and illustration.

This got me thinking about how comprehension and literacy is so tied to prior knowledge and past experiences. John received a ball for his first birthday and loves to play. We have two dogs: a border collie named Esteban and an Aussie mix named Thali. Finally my college roomate, on the day John was born bought him a set of bathroom rubber duckies. These quickly became his favorite chew toys.

It is very interesting watching his language and interactions with texts (in the writ large sense) evolve. Makes me think about the connections to the classroom. Teachers should question deficit models of reading and understand that literacy has more to do with language use and experience with Gee’s (1989) primary and secondary discourses rather than lack of skills.

I will keep you folks updated. Hopefully John will soon remember that books are once again for devouring and and that every word can provide a bitter taste or a juicy morsel.

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