Have you ever seen that email with all the jumbled up words? You know—the one that shows how you can still read most words even though some of the letters are transposed or mixed up? How are you able to read and understand words, sentences and paragraphs filled with disordered letters?
Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
(This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself but the word as a whole.)
This Is Fun, But So What?
What does this have to do with teaching a baby (or toddler or young child) to read? Think about it. Unless you’re reading an anatomy textbook or some kind of scientific journal, you probably don’t spend much time sounding out words one letter or syllable at a time.
Why not? Because your brain knows most words right when your eyes see them. Your brain recognizes and identifies the word as a whole without having to read the individual letters.
Take the word “shirt” for example. When you first learned to read this word, you may have sounded out the letters to help you say it properly. But once you knew the word “shirt,” you didn’t need to sound it out anymore—you just knew it. And did you ever go back to sounding it out again? No--why would you? You already knew it.
What Does This Mean for Your Baby?
Imagine now how fast your baby could learn new words as symbols, rather than first trying to sound out each letter. Your brain can process whole words as symbols much faster than the individual letters.
How do kids know a truck is a truck? A bird is a bird? They see the truck or bird and someone says truck or bird and the association gets reinforced until a truck is a truck and a bird is a bird. Does a child get confused and call a truck a bird or a bird a truck?
Written words can function the same way for kids or even learning a foreign language. That’s why kids pick up a foreign language so quickly. They associate the words with the objects or actions or direction. What is up or down? How do kids learn that?
Imagine further the increased confidence if your baby had an arsenal of words that he or she just knew—before learning the 43 different sounds (called phonemes) made by the letters of the alphabet.
Your baby would learn to read much more quickly.
That is the beginning process for “speed reading” and comprehension, where your brain processes words, phrases, and whole lines of words rather than the individual letters.
An arsenal of known words will increase reading fluency by reducing the amount of words that require sounding-out. And not only that! Familiarity with already-identified words will further increase reading fluency by speeding up the time it takes to sound out and learn new words.
Let’s go back to the word “shirt.” If your baby knows the word “shirt,” he or she will automatically associate the first two letters “s-h” in similar words, such as “shot,” with their correct sound: “shhhhh.” The same will happen with the last letter “t,” also in common with both words. All that’s left is one letter to sound out, rather than all four.
In the traditional sound-it-out way that kids learn to read, they eventually gain a collection of known words and then begin using those words to help them identify other similar words.
But why not give your baby a head-start with an arsenal of known words in their back pocket. He or she can use these immediately when introduced to the concept of phonemes and sounding-out words. In fact, your baby will probably learn to sound out new words on their own, without formal instruction.
We started off teaching our baby the association of the object and the word. We were amazed that he picked it up almost immediately. He learned to match the symbols of the word and the image of the truck to the meaning in his brain. They became immediately combined.
And this is what Let’s Read Baby!is designed to help your baby achieve. The written word “truck” and the picture of the truck are symbols for the meaning, and the baby’s brain associates them all together. There is no reasoning involved and no process. The symbols are firmly combined to create the meaning.
It’s so simple that any child can pick it up as quickly as learning the visual object and matching it to the meaning in the brain.
Try It Yourself
Get a copy of the first book in the series. Try it. When you get that warm, proud feeling that “My baby understands!”, you will be eager to move on to more and more word/image/meaning associations.
And what delights a child more than succeeding and learning? Their appetite for moving on to more words increases with accomplishment!