Thursday, November 20, 2008

How does anyone ever learn to read this language?

As I've mentioned before, I work with the Children's Literacy Center, tutoring and acting as a site coordinator. It's fulfilling helping the kids, and they really enjoy it.

What I don't understand is how the heck anyone ever learns to read the English language. There are no hard and fast rules. Really. There's "i before e, except after c or when it sound like a, as in neighbor and weigh." But what about height and weird? And one the kids taught me: "When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking -- like in ceiling or quiet. Oops. Guess that one doesn't follow the rules either. (Hey! There's another one right there.) When a kid is struggling with a word, you can't always tell him to sound it out. Think about sounding out the word "phone" or "one." Then you see words with "gh" in them, like "through" (makes the "oo" sound), "though" (makes the long "o" sound) and "cough" (makes an "awf" sound) and things just spiral into insanity.

Luckily kids are really smart and really resilient, so they take this in stride. They trust us when we tell them that's just how it is. They work hard to remember the rules and don't get too frustrated by the "naughty words" that don't follow the rules -- or any rule at all. Seriously, look at "two." What kind of word is that?

Here's an interesting factoid for you today:
Studies have shown the relationship between language development in early childhood and later success in reading. Parents and other family members have great influence on a child’s development of language and other pre-literacy skills.

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