Since it’s been over a month since I updated you about H., it’s about time I updated you about baby E., who is now 16 months.

First, I’m happy to report that E. is able to read! He can read most words that he can say out loud (although he doesn’t say much–see below), and he can show that he recognizes several other words.  Here are some of the words he says, with a few associations:

“Ball” – he is often saying “ball” when we are downstairs near the family room, which is usually messy with toys.  I think he knows that “ball” means ball, but he sometimes seems to use it to mean “play,” because as soon as I get out a ball he says “no” and goes to a different toy.  In just the last couple weeks he has started saying “no” a lot.

“Moon” – for some reason he has a deep fascination with the Moon.  I think it made an impression on him when his Mama pointed it out to him a few months ago, on a few different occasions.  He often “requests” (well, he points and says “moon,” and I guess) my “Moon for Kids” video, which he usually watches partway before losing interest.  He seems to use “moon” to mean anything in space.  For a long time he was saying “moon” while pointing at either the sun or the moon, but now he seems to know that the sun, at least, is different from the moon.  He does call any picture of a planet or other moon a “moon,” and sometimes just a picture of a galaxy will elicit the word.

“Eye” – now this is a strange one.  Baby reads and pronounces it “eye-t” whether he sees “eye” or “eyes.” The weird thing is I could swear that H. also pronounced “eye” in exactly the same way when he was a baby.

“Mama” – when he was about six months old, he was using “Mama” and “Papa” discriminately.  (He used to slap or pat me in the morning while saying “Papa.”  I woke up quite a few times this way.)  Then he stopped using “Papa” and about four months ago or so we discovered that he was using “Mama” to refer to me. I can ask him, “Where is Papa?” and he will pat me.   But it seems easier for him to call me “Mama,” so he has been doing so.  He seems somewhat amused by my repeatedly insisting that I am Papa, and that person over there is Mama.  (Sigh.)  Actually, in the last week, he has started whispering “Papa” in reference to me, heavily aspirating the P’s, which I think means he doesn’t understand how to put aspirated P’s together with the voiced “ah” sound in “Papa.”

His name – he can say it and read it.  Often when he reads the word, he doesn’t say his name (he’s only said his name 3-4 times that I recall), he just pats his chest.

“Nose” – he sniffs upon when reading it, or points at his nose.

“Lips” – he moves his lips, a little like giving a kiss.

“Dog” – he pants like a dog.  (This is very cute.)

“Cat” – he meows like a cat.  (This is also very cute.)

A – lately, he has liked identifying the letter A whenever he has seen it.  “A,” which he sometimes pronounces “eye,” also seems to be his abbreviated way of saying or asking for the ABCs, like ABC videos we watch.

There are quite a few others, familiar to users of Your Baby Can Read, that he has read, but he also has indicated that he knows some other short vowel words from, like “fan,” “tap,” and “egg.”

I don’t think he is reading phonetically yet.  While he can pick out many more words than I have listed here, he often refuses to play or gets it wrong when I give him several non-obvious, not-totally-familiar words to choose from.

Like his big brother at the same age, he still doesn’t use very many words and rarely speaks in sentences.  He does occasionally come out with sentences, usually “I want” or “Mama go” or something like that.  His performance from last September, “I get the ball,” was unusual.  He did use several other sentences, usually “I get” or “I want” something, for a long time, then he stopped using sentences for several months.  It’s as if he were trying harder to talk when he was 10 or 12 months, but since then, he has gotten a bit lazy–maybe he proved to himself that he could talk and now he just isn’t so interested in developing the ability.

In terms of comprehension or vocabulary, he has shown that he knows a lot more words than he can say.  I play simple word games with him often, asking him to pick words or point to objects either in books or lying on the floor, and he clearly does know a lot of what he sees in baby books.  For example, he could identify red (the color), the numeral 4, lots of animals, etc.

Along the same lines, he seems to know at least most of the letters of the alphabet so far.  In the last few weeks I have had him identify letters on H’s old LeapFrog Alphabet Bus, just one at a time (his attention span is very short), and he was able to identify the A, E, and X.  (I said, “Press A” and he pressed the A.)

As to how he’s learned these things, I’ll cover that below.  I haven’t tested him systematically–it’s play, not scientific testing, and only as long as baby wants to participate.  I really don’t know how far his abilities extend, and I am not so eager to find out that I would subject him to a lot of testing.

Now a little about other abilities and personality.  Except when a longer attention span is needed, he is a pretty cooperative and tractable little guy, unlike H. at that age.  Whereas H. wasn’t very interested in building towers of blocks, and just wanted to knock mine over, E. quickly started imitating me in building some, and was able to build a tower of five blocks on his own, before we stopped.  We haven’t really practiced that either.  I guess that’s pretty good, for this age.  He also follows instructions.  I have told him to get down off a chair and he will.  H. often would not do that.  At the time, I thought he wasn’t understanding; I now suspect that he understood, and decided he didn’t want to.  But H. was also much more independent, and would play for hours at a time by poring through his baby and toddler books at age 16 months, whereas E. hangs quite a bit on Mama (which of course tires her out) and, to my disappointment, is not very interested in books.  But he does pick up books from time to time, on his own, and flips through them.

As with H., his mother speaks her native tongue exclusively to him while H. and I speak English almost exclusively.  Mama and I mostly speak English to each other.  H. does use a few words in his mother’s language, and clearly understands her, but most of the words he comes up with are English.  This is not surprising, because H. displayed the same pattern, although I think he used less of his “mother tongue” than baby has been using.  H., by the way, can understand and translate his mother’s language very well (much better than me), and can even read some in it, but has trouble speaking/answering in it.

H. and E. get along quite well.  I won’t get into all the details, but they seem to have a very healthy, normal relationship.

Quite apart from these “intellectual” skills, E. is definitely a bright little guy–quick on the uptake with his motor skills, quick to imitate, etc. He’s also a happy and funny baby.

Well, so much for what you might notice through interacting with him.  Now let me discuss what we’ve been doing with him, education-wise.

When we get up in the morning, while still in bed, I spend probably a half hour reading books and playing on the iPad with him.  Baby’s word for the iPad is “bop.”  It’s always “bop bop bop” whenever the iPad comes into view.  He loves the bop.  He strongly prefers the bop over books–which makes me wonder if having it around might have soured him somewhat on books.  When H. was 16 months, the iPad did not yet exist.

Now, for many months on the iPad, I was able to show him a variety of flashcard programs, videos, counting apps, and so forth.  But in the last two or three months or so, he’s been insufferable in how he opens one app (which…of course…he has learned to do) only to close it five seconds later, then open another, then close that and open the first, etc.  It’s very difficult to get him to concentrate on any one.  Once again it was rather different with H., who had a longer attention span for both books and videos.  As soon as he shows that he’s just bouncing around apps, I put the bop away.  I don’t want him getting into such bad habits; I also want to reward him for sticking with a task.  Occasionally he does stick with an app or a video for a few minutes, and then of course I let him.  And sometimes, he does get tired of the bop, and I can read a book to him, sometimes two or more books.

Here is a list of apps that he does stick with for a minute or two, if he’s sticking with any:

WatchKnow (selected videos, especially Elmo and India Arie singing the ABC song, counting songs (especially this one which he listens to over and over and over), and Peter Weatherall videos–thanks so much Peter, you’re a kind of genius! Did you know he’s a philosopher like me? Figures!)

Solar Walk – I said he’s very much into the Moon–well, this is one reason why.  He’ll sit and stare while I talk about different planets and moons, orbits, rotation, etc.  His main comment while watching all this is “Moon,” but I think he’s having slightly more complex thoughts than that.

Counting (iTot Apps) – Simple but effective, teaches both counting and names of common objects.  We’ve used this app maybe longer and more consistently than any other (for many months, every day for a few minutes day).  While he has lately become a bit tired of it, so we don’t look at it daily anymore, we still open it up regularly and he can now touch the items himself, even into the teens.

Various flashcard apps. These inspired the Reading Bear “interludes.”

SpongeWords – Simple but very well designed and often holds his attention when others won’t. (Still can’t figure out the speaker’s accent…)

Little Reader – Since he likes the LR software, it wasn’t at all surprising to me that he likes the LR app–again, even when others won’t hold his attention.

“Alphabets in the Zoo” (Googly) – E. was addicted to this alphabet video/app for many months but has gotten tired of it in the last couple months.

KidCalc (a really fantastic math app, by the way, even still for H.) – He likes the Counting Cards.

Apps that I thought he’d love, but really kind of doesn’t: Starfall ABCs (!?), various cute and well-designed animal apps, and Smart Baby Apps’ “First 1,000 Words” (damn it, if he liked this, we’d be set for content for a long time!).  We did use “DomanCards Mathematics” until one day he decided he didn’t like it anymore and that was the end of that.

As to books, his tolerance for them comes and goes.  He really has to be in the mood.  He tends to like the small Priddy board books, and he particularly liked the Tomie dePaola Little Mother Goose board book, The Hungry Caterpillar, The Three Bears by Byron Barton–all board books–and others from time to time.  The only regular paper book he seems to have time for is Go Dog Go. I try out a book on him every day, and some days he just isn’t interested.  I strongly suspect his interest will increase, however.  H. wasn’t interested in reading so much in the few months after he really started walking, too.

When H. was E.’s age, I read to him while his Mama fed him.  I’m still reading to H. at mealtime (and explaining things), and E. frequently is paying attention to us, more or less.  When H. gets up from the table, E. climbs into big brother’s seat.  He wants to do everything big brother does, of course.  Occasionally I do read to baby E. instead of H. at mealtime, but usually he doesn’t have patience for it, so I just go back to reading to H.  I do think I’ll start reading more at mealtime with baby–as soon as he is more tolerant of it.

After his daily nap, and often at other times when Mama needs a break, I find baby in my lap, saying, “Beah! Beah!”  That means Reading Bear.  He’s my biggest fan, I think.  When he doesn’t want to look at anything else, he still has time–and an extended attention span–for Reading Bear.  While we usually look at just 4-6 minutes or so, sometimes he’ll sit there for a full 15 minutes and we’ll look at one from beginning to end.  We use the “Sound It Out Slowly,” and with interludes turned on, the video voice-over turned on (he loves Melissa and for a while was waving when he saw her picture), and the “Can you read this?”-prompts turned off.  So it’s like a video.  I often talk about things that come up (as I do whenever we’re reading or watching anything).  So does E.  If he sees a picture of a cat, he will meow.  If he sees anything like the Moon, he says, “Moon.”

For a long time we were doing the Little Reader curriculum daily, and we still do that once a week or so.  I like it and E. often stays still for it.  I guess we stopped watching so often when he started asking for “Bear” so insistently whenever he saw the computer.  But we do plan to continue on to the end of the curriculum, which I think is excellent.  Doesn’t take long, either, something like three minutes.

By the way, a lot of critics of “baby reading” and very early education fail to realize or accept that, apart from reading books which they generally approve of, it doesn’t take long at all.  It is not done all day long, to the exclusion of play.  It is just a supplement.  Believe me, baby still has lots and lots of time to do baby stuff.  H., too, has lots of time to do little kid stuff.

As to videos, every day he still watches parts of a Your Baby Can Read video, a Brainy Baby video (especially ABCs), or a Baby Einstein video (for a while it was all On the Go all the time).  His habits of watching these are different from the habits H. followed–probably because I am not there.  The time I would have had to sit with him and narrate the videos is now spent, I guess, homeschooling H., and while baby’s Mama does narrate them a bit (in her language), it’s really not enough.  But he doesn’t watch them very much, and his attention for the videos is limited–after five or ten minutes, he’s wandering off.  He prefers to be riding around on his sit-on truck or throwing the ball or following H. around or bothering Mama.  My guess is that he doesn’t spend more than 15 minutes a day actually looking at the television set.  (Of course, he gets other screen time when looking at Reading Bear and the bop.)

In short, things are looking well for baby E.  He’s started actually reading and seems to know lots of baby-accessible stuff, from one source or another, even if he isn’t so keen on books right now.