Category Archives: Learning to read

The twins get competitive – is it genetic or just part of growing up?

Whether we like it or not; the summer of 2012 is going to be dominated by sport.  The air will be filled with team spirit, the thrill of competition, the elation of winning and of course the disappointment of losing. The twinlings seem to have caught the scent of what’s ahead for the nation and have been displaying their own competitive prowess.

It started with their school reading. I thought I was doing the right thing when I praised them for moving to the next reading level. But no. Ladybird, who as I’ve said before responds well to a smiley face, quickly saw it as a personal mission to work her way through the reading stages. I quickly changed my official line. But I was too late; their minds were already set.

One evening as Pickle read his school book and Ladybird reminded us that she’d done this level such a long time ago, I delved into my stash of parenting clichés to try and put things right:

‘It doesn’t matter what level you’re on,’ I explained, ‘what counts is how hard you try.’

I could have just come straight out with ‘it’s the taking part that counts’ but I was aiming for a point or two for originality. But it really didn’t matter how I phrased it, Ladybird had her own views:

‘No,’ she told me. ‘What matters is being on the highest level. And being the best.’

OK. So what do I say to that? I didn’t know. I still don’t know. Maybe the ‘taking part’ cliché is well worn for a reason. Should I have just stuck with that? It was yet another situation that leaves me wondering where my natural parenting instinct to say the right thing ended up.

And it’s not just the reading anymore. As they sit at the table felt tipping out another picture of me with bright red hair they’ve become a pair of vicious art critics, panning their stick men and giving brutal feedback on spelling. On Friday for the Sport Relief mile at a local athletics track they were both determined they were going to win, even though it wasn’t a race.

So this got me wondering; if I’m telling them it’s all about learning and fun (which releases me from any responsibility of their insensitivities) does this mean a competitive nature is genetic? I found my answer on, according to psychologists it’s a common phase children go through in their first year at school. Four and five year olds are apparently comparing their progress in a way they hadn’t before and this adds to the pride they feel when they reach a new milestone. Especially if they reach it first.

So we haven’t produced two ruthless competitors. It’s just another phase and probably more pronounced in the twins because they’re doing everything at the same time. But, if in say 40 years’ time we get a lady prime minister who’s joined forces with her twin brother in a bid for world domination; well, I did try to warn you.


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Filed under Achievement, Learning to read

The twinlings learn to read

Book Shelf

I had mixed feelings about the twinlings starting to formally learn at such an early age. To me the pace seems pretty ambitious, especially for reading. In many countries the twinlings wouldn’t have started school yet and studies find seven is a good age to start education. That makes sense to me. But despite this research and  my anxieties about pushing them too far to early, the twinlings have taken to reading, numbers and writing with gusto. And so we’re doing our bit at home to help them along.

As big readers ourselves, spending time with books is no hardship. I have this dream of a typical Sunday, where we eat a healthy family dinner, in my daydream Pickle shuns alphabetti shapes and turkey dinosaurs to enjoy a vegetable or two, with no tantrums. Then we go for walk in the countryside, without Ladybird asking where the cafe is and Pickle asking to be carried. And this utopian scene culminates with us returning home and sitting down in a comfortable and companionable silence and reading our books. I can but dream. But as Captain Sensible wisely told us, if you don’t have a dream, how’re you going to have a dream come true?!

Initially they both resisted the idea of having to read their daily school books to me, because it had always been me or QPR* doing the reading. I started off by compromising with them – I’d read it first and then they’d read to me. They gradually got used to this idea and now they’re happily in the routine of reading to us before a bedtime story. There’s also a bit of competition going on between them. Ladybird every now and again pulls ahead and is moved onto the next level and when Pickle catches her up he comes home bursting with pride. Last night she sat next to us while Pickle read and couldn’t help whispering (loudly) the words that Pickle was having to sound out.

One of the other big transitions has been the discussions we’re now encouraged to have about the stories.  It turns out there’s more to learning to read than just the words, things that I take for granted, like which bit is the title, the beginning and the end. But I’m finding it’s too many prompts; What do you think this story is about? Who’s the main character? How would you feel if this happened to you? What’s going to happen next?

It all feels pretty unnatural at times and the twinlings end up ordering me to ‘just read it, read it.’ It’s something I’d like to get better at. There are lots of reading aids and schemes out there all with the aim of helping us to make learning to read fun for our children, so I’m going to be looking at some of them and giving some feed back on how they’ve helped us in future posts.

*DH has undergone a name change to QPR as I was being asked who DH was – his new name shouldn’t leave anyone who knows him guessing!

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Filed under Education, Learning to read