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Humpty Dumpty (Break It Down)

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Humpty Dumpty
(Break It Down)

Until a child is about two years old
a printed word looks like one more solid object,
an indivisible picture, an integrated whole,
like a zebra, a beach ball, even Mommy

until she learns the pictures break up into separate parts,
puzzle pieces we call the letters of the alphabet,
and since children at this age are sponges for knowledge,
she grasps the implications of this divisive concept.

Since initially babies see words as forests
'til we point out to them that there are letters - trees,
before this denouement is the only time a child
can really make use of sight, or whole word, reading.

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Once they're aware of the letters/trees,
it becomes very difficult NOT to see them.
And this makes it harder, often impossible,
to see the letters/trees as forests/words again.

To insist a child read by recognizing whole words (the forest)
after you've opted to show them the letters (trees)
is asking them to memorize every single word in English
without bothering to give them any keys.

Saying words can be understood by reading them in context,
that is, taking their meanings from the words around them,
is just silly, since if you can't read the other words,
think about it, there IS no freakin' context!

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You try it with Russian or Chinese.
Can you read the words in context?!
Understand that after about the age of two,
it's time to teach reading using phonics.


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Vi's works appear widely both in print and online. She conducts Poetry Workshops and gives readings in Central New York. Her latest chapbook is "Sine Qua Non Antiques (an Arcanum of History, Geography and Treachery).

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