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Help: my son (3 1/2) starts reading on his own...
Thread poster: Yolande Haneder
Yolande Haneder  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:11
German to French
+ ...
Oct 15, 2004

and I don't know how to react.

I don't know if it is the right forum but I hope some teachers out of you might help me.

What is to expect from a 3 years old?
The first time (a couples of months ago) he came out with 8,9,10,11 (and sometimes 11,10,9,8), 4,5,6,7,8 I thought it was normal. The first time he quoted the title of the article i was reading I thought he guessed it from the picture. Now he is calling pieces of food by the name of the logo written on the package and I can swear I never said it out (nor does it generally interest me what is written on a logo when I go shopping). Now it is getting for me a bit too obvious that he is before is age and I don't know I should take it. He is refusing that i show him things. If I read him a books, he turns off the page, if I want to show him something, he takes what I am holding off the hands to do it himself.
I would like to know what he is actually understanding and how I could help him without it becomes to obvious that I am helping him and he sends me away.

I hope you can help me.

Thank you,


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Alison Schwitzgebel
Local time: 14:11
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Stages of development Oct 15, 2004

Hi Yolande!

I'm also not certain whether your posting should be in this forum or in the multilingual families forum, but I've left it here for the time being.

Re: Independence
I think that your son is just going through one of those independent stages - wanting to do everything himself. I have three kids, and my first two have both gone through phases like you describe (my third is just 7 months old, so we're not quite at that stage yet). Sometimes they do need your help, but want to try on their own first. So you stay in the background until they realise they can't do it on their own and ask you to help them. Wait til he asks you though before you offer your help, otherwise you're liable to end up with a temper tantrum on your hands.

Re: Numbers
And all kids like playing with the names of numbers. However there's a big difference between being able to recite a list of numbers forwards and backwards and actually knowing what the numbers mean (that 10 is more than 5, and that seven plus two is nine, etc.). Even my two-year old loves saying lists of numbers.

Re: Learning to read.
Do you have a TV? Is he exposed to advertising? That would be my first bet for where he is picking up the logos. Learning to read is a complicated process. Sure, there are kids who can read at age three, but cases like that are very seldom indeed.

Let's think about what a kid has to do to learn to read. First, they have to know that the letters all make different sounds. Then they have to know how to string those signs and sounds together to make words. Then they have to read the words. Imagine the difficulties you would face if you suddenly had to start reading hieroglyphs....

The main thing is to go with the flow. Let your son set the pace for what he wants to do and when, but be there for him when he needs your help.



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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:11
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Hi Yolande Oct 15, 2004

My children were not before their age, so I can't really advice on first hand experience, but one of my nieces wanted to learn reading at 4 and her mother, a teacher of primary school, didn't want her to learn outside the school nor before the age generally accepted for learning. She got mad when her daughter asked for help to learn reading. The girl learned by her own, without the mother knowing it. When she went to the last year of kindergarden, at the beginning of the year, the teacher noticed that she knew reading, and the girl asked her not to tell her mother. The mother was the director of the school and the teacher told her. The girl went to the first year of primary school and ever since has been a brilliant student.

Your son doesn't want you to help him, don't help him but satisfy his curiosity and give him all the books or material he's interested on, answer to his questions.
I think that this can be a long term or a short term advance, just for reading or more subjects.
There are schools for gifted children, but if I was in your situation I'd wait as much as I could before contacting them, trying to preserve my child's environment. But if he's really gifted you'll need a special school. My son has always been good at maths and when he was 4 he knew counting in French and Spanish up to...I don't remember exactly, but he knew counting, and in English up to 20. His teacher wrote that he didn't know counting up to 10 (in Spanish or French). We met her and in fact we reached the conclusion that our son found so easy and ridiculous the questions that he didn't answer what he knew was correct, just to have fun. He did the same with the different parts of the body, you asked what was the name of the mouth and he answered "nose". So you must be attentive to all those signs.
Gifted children get bored in normal classes and might be terrible students.

Good luck


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Cristiana Coblis  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:11
Member (2004)
English to Romanian
+ ...
it is possible Oct 15, 2004

My son (5 now) went through this stage too. He could recite logos of products and associate shapes and colors on different things at a similar age. Also, he really loved advertising spots on TV, much before he even paid any attention to cartoons. This was when he was 2 or so.

It is hard to say, you know him best. He may really want to learn the letters and numbers. If he is so precocious and he is a kind of child that really cooperates and appreciates help in learning, then you may have a chance to teach him what he wants to know. I believe that parents can learn a lot from their children in terms of when it is time for the child to do that or the other. Claudia's story is very illustrative of that.

Also, so that you can be sure, here, we have some psychological tests of maturity (they call them here). For them is more play than work, so children may enjoy them. It's really easy for you to do these tests for your child (maybe the kindergarten has such a psychologist for children) at regular periods of time so that you can have an idea on the progresses the child is making, or simply have a second opinion from a specialist.

He sounds like a special little fellow. Hugs and good luck with those letters (we are fighting hard with them too).

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Huub Stegeman  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:11
English to Dutch
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no reason to panic Oct 15, 2004

whatever you do, don't stop him! That will only frustrate him. It's fashionable nowadays to think that this early development of reading skills should be suppressed (i even know of someone who sent her son to a psychiatrist for reading books ahead of his age group). It is not a defect, but it might lead to reactions from his age group. He may need your support

[Edited at 2004-10-15 12:10]

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Yolande Haneder  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:11
German to French
+ ...
Thank you to all of you Oct 15, 2004

It seems that it happened to many parents too. I was simply thinking it is not normal for a child to learn to read so early and the point that he is always in conflict with me makes the things worse. I also told my point to the teacher of the kindergarten and I hope she will take that into account. As for the logo, he may have heard from it, but surely not from TV. It is what I would name a "no name" logo from a wholesale business and I am not sure the company would show it off too much that's why I came to the point he must have read it.

Thank you to all of you (also to the ones who answered directly)

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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:41
English to Tamil
+ ...
Count your blessings Yolande Oct 15, 2004

You are really fortunate to have such a son. Gifts like this make we Hindus to believe in previous births. But that is neither here nor there. For God's sake do not panic and don't try to thwart your son. His is a God given gift. Help him to consolidate it with more books and newspapers. Who knows, he may even learn a new language!

I am reminded of the girl named Scout in the novel "To kill a mocking bird" by Harper Lee. This Scout learns to read even before going to the kindergarten. Her teacher frowns on it and tells her to stop reading. Life is so full of such short sighted people.

My best wishes to your son.


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Vicky Papaprodromou  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:11
English to Greek
+ ...
Your son well reminds me of myself, Yolande... Oct 15, 2004

Hi Yolande.

I was really glad to see your posting because it reminded me of myself at the age of you little son. I could perfectly well read the headlines of newspapers when I was 3 and whole articles when I was 4.

My grandmother used to be a teacher and she was always reading a newspaper at noon after lunch and they kept telling me I should stay in bed and rest, though I would just sit by my grandmother's feet looking at all those "huge black letters" trying to understand all about them. So she started teaching me the Greek alphabet letters (in the upper case in the beginning) and I felt so proud I could read although I could not understand everything.

I can assure you that your son feels great about it, it's like a game for him - a game helping him to feel "adult" in this sense. Please don't stop him or talk him out of it... the game of knowledge should be rewarded and encouraged even at such an early age and I agree with other colleagues that it is a blessing.

All the best,


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Andrea Ali  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:11
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Never forget he is only a child Oct 15, 2004

Hi, Yolande!

No matter how intelligent/ahead a child might be, HE IS NOT EVEN FOUR! NEVER discourage your child, ALWAYS teach him what HE wants to learn WHEN he wants to learn but encourage him to play with other children as well. These children tend to end up playing alone or they sometimes prefer to read/write rather than play.

The same thing happened with my son. One day, two months before he was four years old, he came to me with a piece of paper where he had written his name ("FEDE"). I congratulated him and he said "I can read as well".

Ooops! He could read! Then he started adding up with his fingers and then he started reading in English! He has realised dipthongs in English sound different from Spanish! He attends a bilingual kindergarten (Spanish - English) and he loves foreign languages (English and Italian -the ones he hears most).

Since he enjoys reading (he reads anything -even labels on bottles, boxes, etc.) and writing, we always encourage him to do so but we are very careful when choosing his readings: children's stories, Disney comics and so on, or we buy games in which reading/writing is involved. Nevertheless we ALWAYS insist on his playing with the dog in the garden, feeding the fish, playing with a ball or riding his bike.

My concern is what he will do when he gets to 1st grade! Will he be bored to death? Probably. Time will tell

Relax, enjoy and let your child enjoy himself!


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United States
Local time: 06:11
French to English
+ ...
Oct 15, 2004

thanks to Narasimhan and to Huub, "whatever you do, don't stop him! That will only frustrate him. It's fashionable nowadays to think that this early development of reading skills should be suppressed".

You have been blessed. He has above-average skills. Trying to make him fit into other children's intellectual levels will only make him stop using his brain's potential.

Why should we hold them back from realizing their potential? to make life easier for schoolteachers?

His gift will require you to be more involved in his academic life and to constantly work with teachers and school administrations in order to make sure that he is challenged. He may have to skip a grade. The only negatives are that emotional maturity does not usually follow, especially in boys (I have 2), and the other kids may make fun of him because he is a threat to their own self-image.

At this stage, simply buy many beginning level books (for 5-6 year olds) and leave them around for him to pick up and discover by himself, since he wants to declare his independence. We need to raise independent thinkers because this world needs leaders. We all face huge global challenges.

Also, he should begin music lessons. It is a lifelong joy to know how to play an instrument.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2004-10-15 16:43]

[Edited at 2004-10-15 17:58]

[Edited at 2004-10-16 14:38]

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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:11
German to English
+ ...
Music Oct 16, 2004

Rita Heller wrote:
He has above-average skills.
lso, he should begin music lessons. It is a lifelong joy to know how to play an instrument.

I can only second that - but let him choose (even if he chooses drums)!

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Clare Barnes  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:11
Swedish to English
+ ...
I agree... Oct 16, 2004

I agree with the others here - encourage him with what he wants to know and give him the support he needs. I was also reading aged three; please, talk to his teachers and explain his situation. No-one had done this for me when I started school so when I announced to my teacher that I had already read ALL of the books on offer she called me a liar. Almost thirty years later I still think that was one of the worst things that has happened to me. I then skipped a year and was lucky enough to have a teacher who helped and encouraged me.

Following on from what Rita wrote about boys and their emotional maturity... my son is not so far ahead with his reading, but is bilingual, good at maths and has amazing verbal skills. We\'ve had to help him learn how to stand up to the kids who find him \"odd\". It does seem to have worked - he announced the other day \"Do you know, I think I\'m a nerd too, but I don\'t care.\"

You are unlikely to teach him \"wrongly\" or damage his learning in any way if you want to help him with reading/writing at home. Enthusiasm, encouragement and lots of playing with words and letters... fridge magnets are simple but effective learning tools for this age group!

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pascie  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:11
English to French
+ ...
Nurture him Oct 17, 2004

Hi Yolande,
I have a son, 11 y.o, he started reading on his own, that means grab a book and without any preparations at all start reading. He was only 1 year and a half!!!! Believe me I really got scared. I took him to a specialist as I did not know how to handle this and was told to put in special education programs.
At 8, he had an IQ of 144.
It is not easy with such a boy, as they feel lonely, in another world and can't really get on with other children of the same age. The more you feed him the better he feels.
And keep an eye on him.
Hope this helps.

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Yolande Haneder  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:11
German to French
+ ...
I will follow your advice Oct 17, 2004

I will try to help him as much as I can for him to grow up as free as possible from unnecessary control. I want him to be happy, how much IQ he will develop is not important as long he is happy.
To IQ test, I must say that it is relative, having done myself the mensa test. It also depends on how you felt yourself on the day of the test and it is no sign on how you will go on with your future life. I did the first one and I got into the 5%, I did the second one (in english, a foreign language please) and I got into the 20%. I am not unhappy about the result because I had a language test where I had to choose between words I didn't even understand, broke 3 time the end of my pencil, lost time because with the stress I started jump boxes on my answers.
About this I must say, if someone say they know a foreign language as well as their mother tongue, they should have a try at the mensa language test. Even though I was at that time living in England, It taught me that I was not near to understand all of the english language (and maybe it is the reason that I still feel more confident to translate from german-I have my "living" dictionnary anytime I need it when it comes to get the feeling of a german word).

So now it is enough about this topic.. we will see how it goes on.

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Local time: 14:11
German to Dutch
+ ...
fortunately a lot of concern for our children Oct 17, 2004

I've seen my daughter go through some quite amazing developments
and then again some very worriesome one's(she is fourteen now) and then suddenly I'm so relieved, because she is so normal...
All in all, I worry too much and I don't have enough confidence: she'll find out how to do it in a way that works well for her. I can stand by, be patient and assist if I really do have a clever idea about what works for her and what she needs, which I often don't, but if I leave her: she's smart enough to find out.

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