>Brennan's learning his letters, colors, and how to read at 16 months old!

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Alphabet CardsImage by NMCIL ortiz domney via Flickr

I have a theory that I've been testing, and so far it's been working. My theory is that if you make things like counting and reading a part of daily life instead of just making sure you do things like read a book to your toddler every day, your toddler will eagerly learn these things along with learning how to talk. There's a method to it though - for example you can't just sit there and read and run your finger along the words when you're reading something. Your toddler doesn't know how to sound out words yet or even the alphabet and all the sounds the letters make so he or she will not be able to make any sense out of you running your finger along the words. What you will need to do is pull their attention to each individual letter and name that letter - bat becomes B-A-T. Repeat that a couple of times, and then sound it out a couple of times, again pulling their attention to each individual letter. Buh-ahhh-tuh. Do it slow, a little faster, and then finally say the word, still making sure to bring their attention to each letter as you say it - bat. Do this with anything that has lettering that your toddler pays attention to. For example, if Brennan pulls a DVD or book off the shelf, instead of immediately putting it back, I exercise the above method to help him read what the DVD or book says. If he shows an interest in reading more of a book I will open it up and continue to help him read, but I don't force it on him if he doesn't want to read it or if he doesn't have the attention span to keep interested in it for more than a few minutes. However, doing this has made him realize that those strange signs on things mean something, and he will now pull a DVD or book down and run his finger along the words and "read" them (this is usually a bunch of babble). At this I praise him for attempting to read it all on his own. It's not important that he didn't actually READ it but what is important is that he showed an interest in reading it and tried to read it. Then I will use the method I mentioned to show him what it actually says.

I've been practicing this since he started walking and showing signs that he could understand abstract concepts. A major part of our daily routine is in the bath tub. We got him a bunch of foam letters and numbers that stick to the tiled wall of the shower and one major game we play is spelling out simple words. I will pick up the first letter and let him hold it and look at it while I tell him what it is a few times. Then I will put the letter on the wall (or he will help me put it up). I sound it out a few times while pointing at it, and then get the next letter and do the same thing. When they are all up I point at each letter and name it, then point at each letter while I sound it out and pick up the pace until it forms the word, which I repeat a few times while pointing to each corresponding letter of the word's sound.

The same thing goes for colors. I will choose a color and then point everything of that color out to him and encourage him to repeat the name of that color and show me other items that are that color. Numbers and counting works the same way.

One important thing about this process is that I focus on only a handful of words, colors, numbers, and counting combinations. This is to prevent him from getting confused before he even grasps the concept of what I'm trying to teach him.

My experiment has started showing signs of success. The other day Brennan learned his first color (red). He really learned it, too - if you point at something red he will say it's red, and if you ask him to find something red he will find something that's actually red. The next day he learned his first letter (B). He can't say "B" yet as he hasn't got his "eee" sound down yet but he does say "buh" when he sees a B. Yesterday he read his first word (bad). I spelled it out and he said it. Today he spelled his first word (ma).

What gave me the idea for this? My own mom. She did the same exact thing with me when I was little, and thanks to her I was reading, writing, adding and subtracting, knew my shapes, and knew all my primary and secondary colors by the time I entered kindergarten. A lot of it I was doing by the time I was 3. She just made these things a part of daily life and took advantage of a toddler's natural desire to mimic whatever he or she sees their parents doing.

So don't despair if your toddler is showing no interest in having books read to him or her or singing the alphabet song or counting to ten. Just make those things a part of your daily life and you may find a little person following suit.

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