Reading with Henry

Reading the new Carnival of Education, hosted by Jenny D, I came across this charming post by Melinama, who volunteers to read books with a first grader, who arrived in North Carolina with no English at the start of the school year.

Interestingly, Henry has decided to turn our time together into a language lab. He will pause on a page in the middle of one of our books, put his hand on the book as if to signal, “ok, we’re shifting gears, now,” and start a conversation about it in English: “I don’t like snakes.” He continues, sentence after sentence, looking up at me for feedback. He seems to want me to repeat his sentences back to him casually as if asking for elaboration, using covertly corrected English. Then he continues. I ask questions about the topic under discussion (for instance, snakes), he answers; then he asks and I answer. He guides the discussion. I’m in awe of his ability to use the few minutes we have so efficiently – he is methodically stockpiling correct English usage.

A couple weeks ago a switch in his brain got flipped, and now he chats with great verve in English from the minute he sees me. And he’s darn good! Kids are amazing!

There’s a bunch of other stuff at the carnival.

About Joanne


  1. What astounds me is not what this child can do, but rather that so many adults find it amazing.

    In Heinlein’s “The Cat Who Walked Through Walls”, there is a character, a cat, by the name of Pixel that walked through walls. Heinlein’s explanation of this amazing feat was simple: “It’s IMPOSSIBLE, but the cat is so young that he doesn’t know it’s impossible so he does it anyhow.”

    If you treat a kid like they can’t do something, they won’t. Tell anyone something is impossible and for all but a very small fraction of the human race with a rational brain, it is.

    Even though I proved on a Physics final that you can, indeed, go faster than the speed of light, I do not claim that the laws of nature can or will ever be broken. But if you never try, they certainly will not. By the way — that was the ONLY class I ever got an F in.

    But whatever you do, don’t try to teach an “English impared” kid how to speak English. It’ll hose their self esteem, mess with their family life and worst of all, allow them to communicate with everyone else.