The alphabet already

At dinner the other day, I said to Ben, “Do you think our kitchen fan is making a funny noise? It sounds to me like ‘Beeeee’.”

Sophie looked up brightly, eager to join in the conversation. “B,” she said. “A, B, C.”

I had no idea she knew the alphabet.

We tried out other letters, and, yes, someone has taught her to repeat letters. She can’t get much past “D” yet — she is only 20 months old, after all or maybe 21 by now. Honestly, I’ve lost track of how old Sophie is. She’s a few months short of 2 years old: I can say that for sure.

I ought to be proud that she knows “ABCD” already. I ought to be happy that her thrice-weekly daycare teaches her so much. I asked Daycare Teacher Sarah about it this morning, and she said, oh, yes, after Sarah cooks the healthy warm lunch that she makes every day (while watching 7 children under 2, including a 4-month-old, incredibly calmly!), then she has all the kids sing the alphabet song while waiting for their hearty soup/casserole/delicious-whatever to cool down to a temperature that toddlers can eat. Sarah is kind of perfect like that. Throughout the day, she creates teachable moments within a comforting routine.

Sophie has started calling all adults, “Sarah.” Including me.

Maybe that’s why I’m jealous. But I think it goes beyond wanting Sophie to remember that my name is “Momma,” not “Sarah.” It’s that I wasn’t in a hurry for Sophie to learn the alphabet. I myself was a late reader. My kindergarten teacher even suspected I was retarded, and it wasn’t until second grade or so that I became addicted to books. My friends with kids at the Waldorf School tell me that there’s no advantage to being pressured to read before age 7, that earlier isn’t better, that there’s plenty of other things that kids need to learn first, like how to play in a sandbox. Because I was a late reader myself, I’m inclined to agree.

But I think even Waldorfians and Montessorians would admit that when a child starts spontaneously reciting letters, it might be time to pull out the alphabet books, to nourish that curiosity, following the child’s own lead.

I guess this is the first of many regrets at how fast Sophie is growing up. She learns things from people other than me. She’s learning the alphabet far before I thought she would or should. She’s brilliant and wonderful and already growing up too fast.

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One response to “The alphabet already

  1. Tracy

    I agree with you about following their lead. Meghan has known the sounds that letters make for awhile. Sometimes we talk about it in the car, sometimes not. I haven’t pushed her, she’s just interested and taught herself through one of those toys that says the sound the letter makes when you press it. Then after that she would proudly announce “Mommy, bottle starts with b!” She’s done this occasionally for months now with a variety of words. Recently she has shown an interest in reading. We have been reading an anthology of Dr. Seuss “I Can Read” books. She started with the “zoo” sign in “Put Me in the Zoo” She had to read it on every page. Then she would proudly announce, “I’m reading!” Because of her interest we began looking at other words in the book. I started teaching her right away how to sound them out by saying the sounds the letters make and then running them together. She knows about a dozen words on sight now! I’ve only been following her interest though. There are nights she says she is too tired to read and I simply say “Okay” and read on without asking her to look at any words. Finn gets impatient waiting for her to figure out words anyway so we take it slow so we don’t bore him! I agree that you don’t have to push them to read, though. I’m not sure if this post is coming across that way but it’s true. You know your own child and know what interests her. If she gets more of a charge out of exploring her environment at this age then that’s what she should be doing. I love it that Meghan’s nursery school boasts that it’s “not academic.” Meghan is learning to take turns, play creatively, eat new foods, and, despite there being no set curriculum, write her name!

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