24 October 2009

Pitfalls for young readers

"Look at that view!"
"Yes, it's very picture-skew, isn't it?"

I don't know if this conversation ever happened when I was a child, but it could easily have. As with many kids who learn a lot of words through reading them rather than hearing them, I had a great vocabulary at a young age, but was often a bit off with the pronunciation.

I knew that "queue" was pronounced 'kyoo' (now how's that for unlikely pronunciation?), and was familiar with the word 'picture', so when I encountered the word 'picturesque' I heard it in my head as 'pikshaskyoo', and worked out that it meant 'pretty as a picture'.

And a tall, impressive, good-looking woman was 'statyooskyoo', meaning 'impressive like a statue'. If ever I want to write the word, I have to look 'statuesque' up in the dictionary to be sure of how to spell it - knowing that it's supposed to be pronounced 'statyooesk' doesn't tell me whether there are two 'e's in the middle (one for 'statue' and one for 'esque') or one, or none.

I don't have a clear memory of when I could first read words, but I do have a vivid memory (as well as remembering it as a story told in the family) of sitting in the drawing room with my mother (who was reading), my father (who was reading), and my older sister (who was reading), and being very frustrated because at not quite four I couldn't read yet. Fortunately I did learn to read soon after, first in English (Ant and Bee and Kind Dog) and then some French (Pierre Lapin - which is as far as I ever got).

I also remember being so absorbed in reading that I didn't hear Mum calling me. She thought I was deliberately ignoring her, but I really was deaf to the world - something that still happens now when I'm absorbed in reading, which is apparent to me when I come out of a book and hear that my iTunes has moved on through more than half an hour of a playlist without my hearing a thing.

These thoughts were inspired by reading this post, http://stilllifewithcat.blogspot.com/2009/07/help.html, which for some reason I can't link to.

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