Do you think that it is possible to teach a two year old to read? I recently received a video from a parent showing me just that! I must admit that I was both a little skeptical and a little dumbfounded at first. How could this be possible?
But after watching SEVERAL videos of this exceptionally bright little boy reading, I have to agree that yes- he does, in fact, know how to read. As you might have guessed, his parents contacted me because they were delighted with his progress, and because they wanted to share a really cute little video of him singing and dancing to one of my sight word DVD’s. So that’s how our conversation on my HeidiSongs Facebook page got started. But I knew that there had to be more to their story than just the fact that they use my products, so I asked this family to share, and they were kind enough to agree. Watch the YouTube videos that his dad uploaded for us to show how well Rusty can read. According to his father, he was beginning to read words before his second birthday. This kid is just AMAZING- and as cute as a button!
Below is a current video of Rusty, now at the age of four, reading a VERY advanced book, Dinopedia, which is listed on Amazon for ages 7-10. I know, I know. The teachers out there are probably thinking, “Can a child that age possibly comprehend such a book?” Obviously, I have not met him, so I have not asked him to explain to me what he read. But his intonation tells me that he seems to understand most of it. Watch him read it yourself and see!
As for whether or not little Rusty is gifted, I don’t believe that he has been tested. I’m just going out on a limb here and saying that it is obvious to me that he certainly IS gifted! It also seems equally obvious that his mother and father are mightily gifted as teachers and parents! I have to admit that I would never have thought of doing many of the things that Rusty’s dad did with him. (Rusty’s father is his primary caregiver. Isn’t that neat? Let’s hear three cheers for an AWESOME DAD!)
I think that it is important to note the things that Rusty’s parents did NOT do:
1. They did not “drill and kill” him with flash cards. (How would you even get a toddler to do that, anyway?)
2. They did not pressure him. There was no disciplining him or spanking or anything like that if he didn’t learn something. Educators know that a child that lives in fear does not learn.
3. They did not get upset if he didn’t learn something. They kept it light and fun.
4. They did not try to MAKE him learn; instead, they turned just about everything into a game.
5. They did not shove learning down his throat; instead, they fostered a love of reading and of books.
6. They did not try to compartmentalize learning into just one time of the day; instead they made the most of every teachable moment, no matter where they were.
7. They did not try to push their own style of learning onto Rusty. Instead, they noticed what Rusty responded to (in this case, music) and just WENT with it. If it worked, and he liked it, they encouraged him and gave him more.
8. They did NOT put him in front of a television set or computer and walk away. They were there with him, talking with him and singing with him, and making it a special time for the family together.
9. They did not leave teaching and learning to chance. Their teaching was intentional, as you can see in the fact that they labeled most everything in the house. They picked a word or number to focus on each day, even when he may have seemed to young to pick it up. So they had high expectations for their child.
10. They did not try to make Rusty sit; instead, they kept learning active and age appropriate, as you will notice below when you read about how his dad incorporated exercises into their learning games. Remember: “When the bum is numb, the brain is the same!”
And so below, please enjoy this little essay from Rusty’s dad, a former teacher and now Super Dad, at least in my opinion! His remarks are written in italics. I have added a few comments of my own in the regular font. The captions under the photos are also my (Heidi’s) comments, rather than Rusty’s dad’s.
How I Taught My Toddler to Read
As a parent, we list and record all of the special moments when our children do things for the first time. We even try to video them rolling over, sitting up, standing, walking, and even first words. These are all special moments but hearing your child read for the first time, is a feeling like no other.
I taught elementary school for seven years. When my son was born, I resigned to be a stay at home dad. I think one of the most important factors in raising a “book lover” is just having books around and easily accessible. Rusty has always had books around him. He even went through a phase where he slept with and on his favorite books.
It sounds simple, but we even practiced making sure the book was right side up and turning pages from front to back.
At six months, we noticed that Rusty responded to music. We spent an hour each day on YouTube watching alphabet videos and listening to the letter sounds. My mom stumbled across HeidiSongs on YouTube and after one video, he was hooked. It became a daily tradition to watch Heidi’s sight words songs. (Below is a video of Rusty dancing along with one of Heidi’s Sight Word DVD’s at age 14 months.)
As Rusty got a little older and started to talk, we played word games with him. We used sticky notes and labeled furniture, toys, television, tables, etc. Nearly everything in our house was labeled and we would take the time to “read” the words as we walked by.
I am also a big proponent of life’s little teachable moments. While at the grocery store we would try to find his sight words, colors, and numbers. On our daily walks or car rides, we would quiz each other on letter sounds and practice with street signs.
We also created sentence strips that had various commands written on them. We would mix them up, pick one out and read it together. Then we would do what it said, together. For example one might read, ” Jump up and down three times.” We tried very hard to incorporate music and exercise as much as possible.
Soon Rusty knew his alphabet, his letter sounds and was able to sound out simple words. The day he turned two years old he was reading early readers with minimal help from us. From here we just continued what we were doing and implemented vocabulary cards into his daily routine. We studied one word a day and called that word the “word of the day.” Rusty was encouraged to use the word of the day as often as possible and a big celebration took place each time he used it correctly.
My best advice is to take advantage of every moment you get to introduce a new word and to quiz a letter sound. Whether you’re at the grocery, in the car, or waiting for a table at a restaurant embrace the power of words.
Here are some other links to articles on Gifted Preschoolers:
Parenting Gifted Preschoolers: This link has a chart that shows developmental milestones and ages that children from birth to about age two reach that are considered “normal.” It also shows what ages a gifted child might reach them. Very interesting! It never mentions reading, though!
Gifted Preschool Children: This article tells how gifted preschool children are different from regularly developing children, the types of preschool programs that are best for them, and what parents can do for them at home.
Characteristics and Traits of the Gifted Preschooler: This article contains detailed lists of language, psychomotor, and personal-social characteristics of the gifted young child.
Gifted Preschooler: This site has three links to articles on the identification, facts, and other information on education for gifted preschoolers.
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