Reading is Fun!

  We always hear that children learn to read at their own pace, but how do we know if our kid is "on target"? Anna Housley Juster decides to follow her daughter's lead and encourage everyday reading adventures.    

常常聽見人們說孩子自己就會學習依照自我的速度來閱讀,但我們怎麼知道他們的進度適中? Anna Housley Juster決定跟著她的女兒一起探索閱讀!

Recipe for Reading

My older daughter Alex will be 4 years old on March 26. She's been saying she is "3 and 3/4" for a while and recently we started working on "3 and 11/12." Of course, she doesn't fully understand fractions, only that they get her closer to princess cake and princess cake is good.

This is just one example of how Alex's interest in learning has always been directly related to her level of excitement... and this is definitely true when it comes to reading.

Just yesterday morning it was cold and rainy, Alex was home sick, her younger sister Eliza (7 months) was napping, and I was randomly craving blueberry muffins -- the big ones with lots of blueberries. Alex and I searched big blueberry muffins online, and we found a recipe right away. I excavated a piece of scrap paper from our really junky junk drawer and began to jot down the ingredients.

"Does it say we need olive oil and one cup of soft pepper?" Alex asked, giggling.

"I don't think so!" I laughed, and continued writing.

"And pepperoni cheese hot sauce?" Alex laughed harder, cracking herself up with her ridiculous ingredients. "And one cup of Mr. Hot Cocoa and some Mr. Chocolate Cream and then some chocolate covered raisins?"

"Alex, you don't like chocolate do you?" I asked.

"Yes I do... Mommy, can you write down MY list?"

I asked her to repeat what she'd said so far, wrote her words, and then read the ingredients back to her. She laughed HYSTERICALLY until she was breathless.


I read the list again and again and again, pointing to each ingredient on the list as I read it. Then I asked, "What should we do when we've mixed all of these funny ingredients?"

"Then we serve it to the sales worker," she said. "And... we can eat it all up in our tummies and NOT save some for Daddy. (pause) No wait, we can save some for Daddy and Eliza."

I wrote all of this on the scrap paper. "Okay, Mommy! Now READ!"

"Please?" I encouraged.


I read the whole "story" of our recipe three more times and when Eliza woke up, we went to the grocery store. We were able to find butter and blueberries, but they appeared to be fresh out of "soft pepper" and Mr. Chocolate Cream. Maybe next time...

Signs, Signs, Everywhere There's Signs

"Mom, do you know there are A LOT of signs that say 'no'," Alex pointed out on our way home from the store. I was surprised because: a) I'd never thought about this before; b) I didn't even know Alex was thinking about signs; and c) I definitely didn't know she could read the word "no".

We were stopped at a red light and right under the light was a sign that said "No turn on red".

"Can you see the word 'no' right now?" I asked.


"Okay, look under the red light. Do you see the word 'no'?"

"Yes... oh yeah! I see it!"

I wondered if my husband Ken had talked with Alex about the word "no" on signs or maybe Alex's teachers have been talking about it at school. Otherwise, I really have "no" idea how she learned to recognize the word "no," but I do know that she was excited about it.

The light changed and as I drove on, I was tempted to continue the conversation. But Alex had started singing along with her CD, so I decided to be happy that she was interested in the words around her and leave it at that. I figure we pass that same sign almost every day, so maybe we'll come up with a "no" game and look for this word everywhere. I'm also excited to watch these "early reading" videos with Alex soon.

A Space of Her Own

Alex's "office" is a small table with two chairs in our kitchen. This is where she does most of her artwork, but the table was gradually disappearing as piles of paper, bits of broken crayons, dried paint, school projects, etc. covered its surface. One day Alex said, "Mommy, we need to clean my desk so it looks like the desk in your office."

I was surprised (and delighted!)... "Really, you think my desk is clean?" By comparison she was absolutely correct. "You're right. We need to ORGANIZE!" We cleaned up together, and now Alex has a nice empty table where she can do her "work."

Now that she has a clean space, I find Alex focuses on her drawings for longer periods, and these days she is super interested in making pictures of her favorite people. When she's finished, she wants to write each person's name. To encourage her to write on her own, I listed Alex's most commonly used names in clear print on a separate piece of paper. Now she uses her "name dictionary" as reference. When she wants to write "Ken," she can find his name on the list.

Other times, instead of checking the list, Alex asks for "sound it out" hints. "Ken" I say, "kuh, what's that first letter that sounds like kuh?"

"K!" she yells with excitement and then writes the letter under the picture of Daddy.

One of Alex favorite letter sound games is Letters to Big Bird. In this game, Alex matches Big Bird's letter with objects that begin with that letter's sound. For more fun and simple sound and letter recognition activities, take a look at the article Discover the Alphabet.

Tasty Titles

Recently, Alex has started "reading" to Eliza. The coolest part is that the books Alex reads were her favorites when she was a baby. They are Softplay Sesame Street books, which are also cushiony, fabric building blocks. One is called "Love" and another is called "Kisses". There are only three or four words on each page and Alex has memorized all of them.

I'm amazed by Eliza's focus as she stares at each brightly colored page. Her attention to the books when her big sister is "reading" to her is different from her attention to other objects. She looks back and forth from the page to Alex's face, seeming to really understand that Alex is reading to her. Then, Eliza reaches for the book and takes a big bite or just sucks on the tag. So far, I think she likes the "tasting part" of book time best.

Body Language

Last night after brushing teeth, Ken and Alex came into the kitchen laughing. "We're the letter L!" Alex announced.

Ken was holding Alex horizontally with her feet across his shoulders and her head out to the side. They looked like an upside down L.

"Cool!" I said, "I luh-luh-like your L. What other letters can you make?"

Little did I know what I was getting myself into! "You can help, Mom," Alex said, "It will be easier on the floor!"

Fifteen minutes later, all three of us were still lying on the kitchen floor making letters with our bodies. E, then A, then P, then W. At some point Alex said she wanted to stand up so she could see the letters we were making. That's when she became the duh-duh-duh-director.

"Now make an R!... Okay, now an A!... And what about a K!" The letters started to get more complicated especially since we were down to only two people. At some point I turned to Ken and burst out laughing. "If only the neighbors could see us now!"

Ken and I came up with a couple more letters on our own, asking Alex to guess what we were. Finally I said, "Okay Alex, last one, and then it's time for you to get your Zs."

Anna Housley Juster
Sesame Workshop





Print and play with the alphabet!


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Trying To Find Z

Zelda goes in search of the letter Z.

Source: Sesame Workshop


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