There is a plus side to illiteracy

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Reading is a wonderful thing. I was that stereotype girl with thick glasses, out-of-control-hair, bad fashion sense, and a nose perpetually stuck in a book. I still love reading even if I don’t make as much time for reading of the book variety (I read a lot of stuff online of course).

Hayley loves reading too and she’s getting better and better at it. A couple of weeks ago she took Are You My Mother? by Dr. Seuss to school and she read it to her class, getting a huge “super reader” sticker from her teacher along with a note saying she had “read it beautifully”. Every night, she gets into bed and she turns on her reading lamp and reads her books to herself. We still read to her too (I’m in the middle of a chapter book with her about Mariposa, she loves it. I can’t wait until she’s ready for a really big chapter book so I can read The Secret of N.I.M.H. to her!) but she just really loves reading to herself.

However, there are some drawbacks to it, and if you’re currently the parent of a child who has not learned to read yet, you might want to bear it in mind.

For one thing, talking about certain topics with others in front of your children will become a lot more difficult. George can no longer turn to me and mention that he’s going to go buy a c-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e b-a-r at the store because now Hayley will shriek, “You’re buying a chocolate bar?!” If I’m not sure I want to take the kids to the park I can’t say “We might go to the p-a-r-k if I finish my work in time” because then Hayley will ask me about the park five million times.

I hadn’t really thought about the repercussions of having a reader and no longer being able to spell. We can use French for now, although chocolat is too close to chocolate so some words are still impossible to hide, and she’ll be fluent in French soon enough that it will be off the table as an option too. Right now we resort to charades a lot, or vague references like “that place on the other side of town that serves hot beverages and little round edible things” so that Hayley can’t figure out we’re talking about donuts at Tim Horton’s.

Eventually we may have to learn an obscure language like Gaelic or Esperanto or perhaps Klingon just so we can still converse privately among the kids.

The other disadvantage is that it can be annoying. How so? Tonight Hayley was trying to resist sleep by banging her legs as loudly as possible on her mattress which was noisy enough, on top of all the books she kept knocking with a crash onto the floor. I was trying to watch American Idol work, so I went in and said, “Hayley, you’re going to wake your sister up which will interrupt American Idol my work, please be quiet!”

And she looked up at me with a big smile and said, “I can SPELL quiet! Q-u-i-e-t!” And what do you say to that? “Yes, very good, but please do it instead of just spelling it. You have to go to sleep.”

“I can spell sleep! S-l-e-e-p!”


So think long and hard. Do you want to have your own words spelled back at you when you’re trying to parent? Do you want to lose an important method of communication with your spouse? If the answer to those questions is no, then do yourself a favor and go hide all the children’s books, turn off reading shows like Super Why and Sesame Street, and toss out the alphabet blocks.

It’s your only chance.

By the way, I reviewed a really delicious c-e-r-e-a-l on my review blog. I was sent a complimentary box of Frosted Flakes Gold and it was so y-u-m-m-y it lasted under three days here. Go check it out!

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5 thoughts on “There is a plus side to illiteracy

  1. Richard L Walker

    That was a s-u-p-e-r article. I think any option you choose will be broken by the girls in short order. You can talk about the round things, but when donuts show up they will immediately identify round things with donuts … and then the next time you mention round things they will amaze you.
    Go with the flow. The last second spelling was just to get a little more mommy time … but you knew that already. lol

  2. Carrie

    We sometimes use Pig Latin, unless the words are long enough that they’re identifiable anyway. We’ll also drop Five Dollar Words in place of the common ones (“Chinese buffet” becomes “establishment featuring a plethora of eastern continental Asian delicacies”), and if Sam starts picking up those, I suppose I’d be happy either way. 😉

  3. Wim

    My friend in Brazil used a similar method on me when I went to visit her some five years ago and she wanted to have private conversations with her friends.

    I didn’t speak or understood Portuguese ofcourse, but it being close to French and the fact that I was learning fast trough trying to conversate with her 6 year old niece, who was in the process of learning a lot of new words herself so she was eager to play teacher.

    In the end she started talking with a sort of made up language where ill viwils wir riplicid bi i.

    I mist si thit it wis rithir inniying ti hir thim spik lik thit ill thi tim, bit it might bi simithing yi cild tri.


  4. jade

    I so relate.
    We use roundabout descriptions for things and obscure fluffy words (sort of like Carrie described) in order to try to have child-unfriendly conversations, but it does become harder as time progresses.

    The other day I had Stephanie ask me if I had something that my mum had asked me for on MSN. The cheeky miss had read my screen!

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