Wednesday 14 December 2022

How Did You Learn to Read?

So, as a refresher, I’m currently taking an online TESOL course powered by Arizona State University and I’m now on the Teaching Second Language Reading, Writing and Grammar module and it’s awesome! One of the readings in the module asked us to reflect on our experience of learning how to read in our native language so I’m going to do that on this post.

Growing up simultaneously bilingual as a native speaker of English, with Yoruba being my mother-tongue, I know I learned to read and write Yoruba in the third year of junior secondary school (though I still cannot read fluently without pausing now and then to sound out the accents in my my head…) and I have my Yoruba teacher to thank for that even though I hated and still do not agree with his wicked,cane-wielding methods to make us learn by all means ๐Ÿ˜ญ.

However, I honestly do not remember exactly how I learned to read in English but I can never forget my introduction to the wondrous world of books when I was about 5 years old. That year, my mother returned from a trip to Lagos bearing gifts of Enid Blyton books sent to me by my aunt and I remember sitting on the couch and reading them out loud, figuring out the words as I went along. I also remember Mother telling me to read silently and with my eyes only and how I went on to read even more complex and boring books after that. I hope to tell my grandkids the stories of how by the time I was nine years old, I’d read books like The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Peter Drucker’s management book, The Bible, Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped AfricaThe Works of Wole SoyinkaEvery womanWho’s Who in Banking, among others. All from cover to cover.

I digress ๐Ÿ™ˆ  ๐Ÿ˜ 

When I worked as a Nursery school teacher, I taught my pupils how to read following the Jolly phonics curriculum and I would often search my memory for recollections of me learning to read that way. Zilch. Consequently, I do not know if I learned to read via the phonics method or the whole language approach which believes that “language serves personal, social, and academic aspects of children’s lives, and that children become literate as they grapple with the meaning and uses of print in their environments” (Ediger, A. (2001), Teaching children literacy skills in a second language). Or perhaps a combination of both methods …? 

Learning to read in Japanese,  as an adult, is another interesting journey that I’ll talk about in a different blog post. But it was from scratch, via learning the sounds of the hiragana characters and then some kanji characters. Now, I can say I’m fairly literate (JLPT N4 Level ๐Ÿ˜‰). 

Using my 9 year old child as a case study, I know as a native English speaker, he started to read in English at around age 4/5, having been taught phonics when he was in nursery school (Early Years). And now he reads very big words, beyond the three-four syllables that he learned to read with phonics. Even more amazing is how he came to Japan as a five year old and began learning how to read Japanese when he started elementary school and now he prefers to read books in Japanese. 

Learning to read is kind of magical isn’t it? Big ups to the amazing Early years teachers who help to set a solid reading foundation and a bigger thumbs up ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿพ to teachers who help second language learners learn how to read in a foreign language!! You all are the real MVPs! 

What language(s) do you speak and how did you learn to read? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for stopping by, see you next post!

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