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.)
Interesting, 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 learning more words increases with accomplishment!
Think back to the last time you had locations changed on you—whether it was a new apartment during your junior year of college, a new office on the 10th floor, or discovering that the cereal was now on aisle 2 instead of 8. How many of you later found yourselves pulling into the parking lot at your old apartment, pressing the button for the 7th floor instead of the 10th, or wondering why you’re looking at Ben & Jerry’s instead of Special K?
Repetition not only facilitates learning, it hinders un-learning.
Learning expert Regina Richards explains in more detail: “Repetition and rehearsal of information enhance a process called consolidation, the process by which memories are moved from temporary storage in the hippocampus (a small structure within the brain) to more permanent storage in the cortex (the outer layer of the brain) (Richards, 2003, p. 24).” (http://www.ldonline.org/article/5602/) Let’s Read Baby! emphasizes repetition by showing each object twice and each word twice: object alone, object with word, word alone. The repetition increases your child’s ability to associate the object with the word that describes it. It also provides a natural atmosphere for questions and answers that allow your baby to repeatedly respond and receive positive feedback. This learning theory—the repetition of stimulus, response, then positive reinforcement—is called operant conditioning. Watch the video demonstrating this with my 2-year-old here.
While trying to remember the answer of a test question, did you ever visualize the location on the page where you remembered the answer was located? Do you think of locations and borders near the Great Lakes when trying to remember the capital of Michigan? Or back when we had to manually dial telephone numbers with our fingers, did you imagine the location of each digit on the telephone keypad to help you remember friends’ numbers?
Imagery is a powerful learning and memory tool. Let’s Read Baby! uses common everyday images to help kids associate words with objects.
If you’re interrupted while tying your shoes, do you pick up where you left off? Or do your fingers and your mind need to start from the beginning and repeat the pattern in order to remember each step? When trying to organize things alphabetically, do you find yourself re-singing the whole ABCs song? Or perhaps you remember to Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally to remind you of the mathematical order of operations? Or do you associate the notes on the treble clef with Every Good Boy Does Fine? Richards again explains: “The brain seeks meaning through patterns. As we receive information from our senses, we need prior knowledge and a system for organizing the information so we may assign meaning to it. When information comes in, our brain searches around for existing knowledge. If the new information is something that activates a previously used neural network, then there's a match. This is referred to as pattern recognition and is of tremendous value in enhancing memory.” (http://www.ldonline.org/article/5602/) Let’s Read Baby! employs patterns to accelerate the learning process. Each word is located at the same spot on each page. When shown with their objects, each word and object pair have the same spacing. Consider the repeating pattern of object alone, object with word, word alone. It starts with the known identity of the object, then adds new information—the word—that can be associated with the object, and finally allows the word itself to gain its own independent identity. And smaller versions of each object and word pair at the end of the book bracket the individual word patterns with a book-level pattern that reinforces the learning of each word.