Year 4, Day 117

Miles can read numbers now.

For instance, he remembers that our mailbox is “eight one” and the page his favorite story starts on in his Disney bedtime book, even without looking directly at either stimulus.

“Sure,” you might say, “but so what? It’s not like he can read words or sentences yet.” This is true, but symbol recognition is something I deal with every day at work, and the fact that Miles is demonstrating the ability to independently recognize numbers is a really good sign for letters and words down the road.

My day job has taught me that you can’t take this development for granted. Symbol imagery — our ability to create, retain, and recall the letters and words we see, is a critical component part of literacy. We can sound out a word to learn it the first time, but can we learn to start recalling that word the third, fourth, or fifth time we see it? If so, that’s symbol imagery at work.

For most kids, this is a subconscious process that develops just as naturally as breathing and troublemaking, but every day I work with children (and adults) for whom that skill never developed, leading to ongoing struggles with literacy. I’ve always kept in mind that my profession will, if needed, put me in a position to better help Miles contend with any challenges he might encounter as he grows into an emerging reader. I’d be lying though if I said seeing how easily he seems to be picking it up isn’t a relief.

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