Tabula Rasa

The written English language is pretty strange, a fact that is never more apparent than when you are teaching a small human to read.  My daughter is only 2 and a half, and even though we read to her a lot, and of course there are plenty of alphabet based books out there, I was still surprised to learn she had mastered the recognition of the entire upper case alphabet.  It happened when my back was turned, so to speak, the same as when I discovered she knew how to match shapes  (flash cards.)  I was trying to teach her how to put like colors together, and the next thing I knew, she was putting the shapes together.  I continue to underestimate her capabilities.

In the past couple of weeks, her speaking has taken off, and she often mimics words we say (much to our embarrassment, sometimes,) as well as echoing the tail end of songs from her favorite kids shows.  The point of this long intro is that it seems as if she will be learning to speak and learning to read simultaneously.

The favorite show of the day/week/month is Super Why!   For you non-parents or non-toddler having parents, Super Why! is a PBS kid’s show featuring characters who read, spell,and solve “super big” problems through the use of books (in this case, usually a spin on a common children’s tale like Humpty Dumpty or Aladdin.)

For now, we’ll just set aside the idea that even the littlest issue (like leaving the water running) is a “super big” problem.  As it goes, Super Why! is a pretty good kid’s show.  And now that J* is proudly recognizing letters everywhere, from Nike sweatshirts to the “input” channel on the TV, she loves this show.  No matter what hubby and I are watching or playing, J* is hovering around, waiting to steal the controller with her lilting request to watch “Boy? Boy? Boy?” (She calls it this because of when I taught her the main character was a little boy.)

As I sat on the couch this morning, cuddling with my sick little snuggle bug and watching her favorite show, I was again reminded of how strange English can be.

We were learning to spell “kick,” to help the little duck in the story learn to swim.

Princess P asked , “What letter makes a keh sound?”  The answer she was looking for was of course “K.”

It was around this point I began to ponder what a useless letter “C” is.

What words start with C?

Cat. Car. Cane. Crown.  They all begin with a “hard” C.  Why don’t we spell them kat,kar,kane,krown?

How about Ceiling, Cease, Cement?  They’re soft C’s that sound the same as an S (esss.)  So why not Seiling (or better yet “seeling,”) sease, sement?

So what function does a C serve that can not either be served by a K or an S?  Why does the alphabet even have a C? I’m sure there’s a reason.  I just don’t understand the logic behind it.

Then when you consider “long and short vowels” and words with silent letters like head, kick, read (which can be either “reed” or “red”,) kneel, and basically any word that ends in a silent “e,” it’s a wonder anyone ever learns to read.

Really, it seems that learning to read English is only 2 parts phonetics, and the other third is simply rote memorization of the rules of linguistics and grammar.

Apparently, at her school, one of my nieces is being taught to read without phonics.  I’m assuming she is being taught the whole language method.  If I had to guess, I would say the way most of my peers learned to read was probably a combination of both, taught at age appropriate levels.

In any case, my child is a blank slate, eager to be filled with new words and experiences, and I think she is already on an early path to reading.  However she learns to read, I hope takes her everywhere she wants to go, and that she enjoys reading as much as her father and I.

photo credit: quickmeme.com

photo credit: quickmeme.com

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