Children learn their own language from many sources. They’ll pick it up through the speech of their relatives and friends (although sometimes this can be embarrassing when a child repeats a rude phrase that they’ve picked up from somebody else!). They acquire more language in classrooms, in public areas, on TV, on the radio and in movies. (Providing they sit still long enough throughout the movie. Some toddlers I’ve met stay still for about ten seconds and then zoom off to another area of the room faster than you can say “NASCAR”.)
I’m also fascinated by how children pick up their language and grow up to be avid readers. When my sibs’ kids were toddlers and I needed a rest from their usual antics, we often read books together. We used what I call the “Whazzat?” learning method, a time-honored tradition in my family.
Me (pointing to picture of bird in the kid’s alphabet book): “Whazzat?”
Toddler (proudly): “APPLE!”
Me (flipping page to next image): “Whazzat?”
Toddler (triumphantly): “BIRD!”
Me: “That’s right! Yaaay!”
Toddler (echoing me): “Yaaaay!”
Now that my sibs’ kids are older, each one has developed his or her own reading preferences. One adores the Twilight series and is on her way to becoming a good writer, using Wattpad. Another kid likes cooking books and classic books such as My Side Of The Mountain and The Far Side Of The Mountain, both by Jean Craighead George.
It’s fun having these kids become more mature because it’s entertaining to talk about certain authors and books. It’s almost like they’ve become my peers, in a sense, even though our age ranges are different.
Back in October, I had a couple of discussions with two of them involving writer Edgar Allan Poe, whose stories they were assigned to read in school. I’ve read classic literature most of my life and it was a big part of my college education, so it’s interesting to hear their opposing viewpoints on characters, stories or authors that I know well. And I contribute some of the information I’ve learned that these kids may not know, such as the story of the Poe Toaster and the blog post I wrote about Poe’s brief time at the University of Virginia.
I hope these kids never outgrow their fascination with reading and writing. I think it will serve them well in the years to come.