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The Problem With Literacy For Kids

Erin Zammett Ruddy

Watching your kid learn to read is exciting and emotional and amazing. But having a literate kid can kind of suck. Here’s why….

We’re in the midst of PARP here on Long Island (Parents As Reading Partners) and so reading is very much on our minds. Books are a huge part of our parenting already but now we’re clocking in hours (Alex has to turn in coupons with how many minutes he’s read each day) and sounding out words like it’s our job. Since Alex started kindergarten he has been learning the building blocks to reading and writing and he’s getting quite good at it. The proof: Nick and I are able to spell out inappropriate words less and less in front of him.

Nick and I spell a lot in front of our children. Sometimes it’s when we want to talk about them in front of them (“is H-E taking an N-A-P today?”), sometimes it’s about our frustrations (“if I have to fold one more load of laundry I’m going to K-I-L-L M-Y-S-E-L-F”). A lot of it is just words I don’t want my kids to use—S-T-U-P-I-D, I-D-I-O-T, M-O-R-O-N, H-A-T-E, F-A-T, W-E-I-R-D, E.T.C. And sometimes, I’ll be honest, it’s just a $-*-&-!-@ or a $-&-#-! —Nick and I are trying so hard to not curse in front of the kids but spelling is OK, right? Of course Alex can now pick up on all of it. He’s constantly saying, “I know what you just spelled mom!” And he now spells things to us, like he’s part of the club. “When N-O-R-A goes to B-E-D I can stay up with Y-O-U, right mom?” It’s great. But it’s a little frustrating that he’s already outsmarting us. Lord knows I don’t want to have to stop saying inappropriate things from the hours of 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday, the four of us were playing outside together and Nick asked me what I wanted to do that night. I replied: “I’ll do anything but I don’t want to hang out with my F-A-M.” And before I could even finish Alex said: “Why don’t you want to hang out with your family, mom?” D’oh! (For the record, I love my family but we hang out a lot—we already had plans for Sunday, in factand we’re an intense, crazy group and sometimes I need a break. We all do).

We’re not totally S-C-R-E-W-E-D though. Nick and I both have a decent understanding of Spanish (both of my brothers-in-law speak it as a first language so we get practice) and this weekend we took to spelling inappropriate things using our basic high school skills. Por ejemplo: “El hijo de me hermana was kind of loco anoche, no?” V-I-C-T-O-R-Y! Anyone else have the spelling issue at home? Got any creative ways to get around it? (Note: Giving up inappropriate words and phrases is not an option for me right now.)