BootsnAll Travel Network


by a linguistics graduate
Bath, England

That Bath is a university town was particularly apparent today – hundreds of black-gowned graduates were out on display, marching the streets, proudly clutching their certificates. It seemed an appropriate place to check out second-hand bookshops and augment our meagre-but-much-larger-than-last-week supply.

Staying in a book-filled home, we have delighted in snuggling on the couch poring over, reading every word in more Beatrix Potter books than you would imagine possible in one sitting! When we left home, ER(then 2) had her favourite books, but Peter Rabbit was not among them. Yesterday, after I had read aloud a couple of bunny books, she asked to read the next. And she made a valiant effort! I love this early reading and have really missed it. I also love cuddling on the couch, children draped all over me, experiencing a written world; I’ve missed that too. But I wouldn’t swap what we have had for all the books in the world – when we opened one of the books yesterday, the children recognised foxgloves, just like the ones where we were staying a few nights ago, just like at the roadsides all this last week. They hadn’t met real life foxgloves before!

With regards to reading, something has been intriguing/bothering/puzzling me over the past few days. When we left home Lboy8 was seven years old and a struggling reader. He was sounding his way laboriously through regular words.
The other day we picked up an armful of books from a High Street charity shop in Looe. Lboy8 took a look at “My Naughty Little Sister” and promptly devoured it. Ever since, current experiences with his own naughty little sister have been compared to the literary exploits, the every-chapter-starts-exactly-the-same rhythm has been duly noted and pointed out to all-n-sundry, and the irony of the big sister still being a little kid did not escape him.
So how did that happen? Sure, this particular book is “only” written at an 8yo reading age, and so it is nothing remarkable that he can read it. But for almost nine months Lboy8 has had almost no reading material (unless you count his own poorly creatively-spelt journal). There have been hardly any social reading opportunities in English (street signs or food packaging, for example) and, as already mentioned, we have not been reading aloud.
I am of the opinion that, just like with breathing, eating and walking, given the opportunity at a maturationally-appropriate time, a child will pick up reading without a twelve-step programme or huge amounts of blood, sweat and tears.
To be honest, I did think Lboy8’s already limited reading skills would be compromised with such a break, but within the context of our whole family, this was a sacrifice worth making, an opportunity cost not too great. He’s got the rest of his life to learn to read, but we are unlikely to ever walk the Great Wall of China with Grandpa again. Even when we have had time to read (like when we were slowed down in Luang Prabang for three weeks), other things took precedence. At that particular time it was more important to us that the children learnt to overcome the language barrier and play with the children we were living with. Reading, we figured, could wait.
Except that it hasn’t. It’s happened anyway. Without any input from us apart from playing word games on long train journeys. How? I did think we at least needed to provide the opportunity, but we haven’t even done that. So now what do I do with my learning theories????

On the topic of word games…’s a goodie our couchsurfing host taught us tonight. You think of a word with two meanings (like glasses or cold or sun/son or flour/flower or tongue….) Everyone else has to try to guess your word by asking you questions. When you answer each question, you have to include your word, but instead of saying the word, you say COFFEEPOTS. We’ll be playing this one again!

So mused I, as we wandered around Bath today….

Time on the road: none
Distance covered: 0km

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6 responses to “*university*”

  1. MarthaAnn says:

    Thank you for always posting great pictures.
    I have enjoyed ck-ing your blog each morning
    as I have my first cup of coffee. Reading about
    your family is a way to see the world.

  2. readiness.
    just got two “first” school reports today.
    both have beautiful progress – ‘cept in handwriting.
    no surprises there X

  3. katie says:

    love it X

  4. Sharonnz says:

    Love hearing about the reading;-)

    We’re about to “start” Ancient Rome at our place so the kids were excited to see the “Roman Baths” sign;-)

  5. AmySanDiego says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to record your adventure!
    I am musing about your son learning to read. How fascinating! I really appreciate your thoughts on education. And I agree with MarthaAnn – the pictures are great.

  6. Leah says:

    I think you underestimate all the language-education your children went through in the months prior! As an outside observer I have been struck by how quickly most of them (all?) have picked up, even little bits of, many different languages. I’m no expert but I wonder if, due to all his exposure to OTHER languages – and the specific concentration they required – falling back into English improved his English language skills – eg. reading? Perhaps something that once took so much concentration makes more sense to him now that he’s had to tackle other things more difficult? That’s only a musing, guesswork.

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