Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018 scientific society talks in London blog post

Friday, 28 September 2018

How my mum taught me to read when I was about three

Given that I was 'about three' at the time my memories of this are not particularly strong 45 years on, so take this with a pinch of salt. This is what my mum told me, sadly she died in 2010 so I can't double-check anything (nor with dad who died in 2016).

Despite my early reading skills I showed no other flashes of competence (I was 19 months before I bothered with walking, my mum said she thought I probably had worked out how to do it before that - but also that I'd worked out that if I didn't walk I'd get ferried around more!) and despite my primary school thinking I was Oxbridge material I turned out to be not very inspiring academically as time went on and any success is more due to luck than hard work. Anyway, revenons à nos moutons as my mother used to say...

My mum was a stay-at-home mum and I was an inquisitive kid. At some point I must have noticed her or my dad reading books or newspapers, or possibly reacting to signs when out and about. Reportedly I'd often ask her "what does that say / mean?" and she'd tell me, I presume my dad did too if I asked him but the learning-to-read thing always seemed to be a mum thing.

She bought a little blackboard easel and some chalks and did what I suppose would be something like phonics with clusters of letters. To start with it would be oo words like look, book, cook and ee words like bee and see. At some point this must have expanded to include the full range of letters and by the time I was three and a half I was able to read simple books.

I went to school at four and a half by which time I could read with ease. I do have a vague memory of something along the lines of either seeing my name on the class register and pointing to it or being given a card and my mum asked to write my name on it (but I wrote it) and this causing a bit of a small stir but that was short-lived.

Most of the first couple of days involved plasticine-craft so I'm not sure at exactly what point it became obvious that I definitely could read independently but my mum told me that she'd picked me up from school one day and the teacher had almost challenged her with "You didn't tell us she could read" to which my mum replied "Well, you didn't ask me." I don't think she or dad thought what I was doing was particularly notable.

It was seen as notable in school though. I remember we read books that had numbers and letters like 4a, 4b and 4c (no idea what they were, possibly Janet and John). I was reading in the 7s and 8s. I have much stronger memories of being taken off upstairs to the staff room and made to read long lists of words to the other teachers (I don't think I had any idea what any of the words would have meant). No idea if my parents had approved this absence from class though to be honest if it was a reading class I pretty much had that down anyway. As far as I'm aware the rest of the class soon caught up and by the time we were five I think everyone could read perfectly well.

I don't think I have or had hyperlexia nor do I think I'm on the autism spectrum and I don't have any other particular skills. Fairly poor at arithmetic (not bad at maths and abstraction though), utterly useless at reading a map or locating where I am in space*. These days I'm not even much of a reader - it's like my eyes are on a train track and they keep jumping off every time a thought occurs to me. I can read a paragraph of a book and it will usually remind me of something interesting or spark an idea which will then occupy me as I daydream about it. Consequently I am more of an article reader than book reader ;) Good with words though.

*Hopeless sense of direction: stuff like walking along a familiar road, entering a shop then when I exit instead of continuing in the intended direction I discover I've unwittingly walked backwards without noticing / the sheer amount of effort involved in navigating an unfamiliar place (I have to keep turning backwards to see what it will look like on the return journey as otherwise it will look like a place I've never seen before). Redoing the same mistaken journey: if I've taken it once and see the route again I tend to remember that I've been down that path before, so I walk that route again before realising. Having no idea how the map I'm looking at matches where I'm standing. Regularly having to start walking without knowing whether it's the right direction just so that I can see the direction the small blue 'me' dot on CityMapper is travelling in, and continue or course correct based on a second reading.

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