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The Girl Reads

When Maria was just a few months old and at the height of drooly, chubby deliciousness, my husband asked when she would start to speak.

I told him it varies from child to child, but I felt she already communicated plenty. The child then yelled out her first "Mama!'' when she was just 9 months old and has gone full-throttle on the language – two of them – since.

Of all the things that teach us children are a miracle, watching our daughter's language develop has been the most curious and awe-inspiring for us. At the moment we're watching Maria – five days shy of her 5th birthday – begin to read. We're acting as if somebody gave us a shiny new present, and admittedly, a little bit like we're the only people in the world who ever watched a kid learn to read.

At her pre-school, they teach reading through phonics and I credit the method for Maria's ease in identifying letters and their sounds. And, because it taught us to always tell her the sound and not just the name. She's been sounding out words for a long time, but this weekend, for the first time, she read to me during her bedtime.

I sit with her after school as she reads Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham and Hop on Pop. She sounds out each letter and smiles with pride when she gets a word that had previously tripped her up. She confuses her Bs and Ds and she tends to think that if a page has a lot of words on it, she can't do it. But, she does. And the whole time, I am thinking, "Holy Cow! She's reading! She's really, really reading!" She can read in Spanish too, and believe it or not, Spanish is easier. The letters actually sound like their name.

Maria's world is about to open up in magnificent ways she can't yet imagine. And, as I ponder the books I will get my daughter, the talks we'll have about what she's reading and discovering, I realize that a my world is going to shrink a little bit: I'm going to have to stop my comfortable habit of sounding out expletives and four-letter words.



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