The Hazards of Being a Precocious Young Reader

Elizabeth Bluemle -- April 9th, 2019

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Sure, we think of childhood reading as a safe activity, free from the kinds of dangers that might befall, say, a tiny skier or a skateboarding prodigy. But there is one danger that affects 4 out of 5 young readers whose reading abilities outstrip their life experiences…

…and that is the pronunciation pitfall.

How many times must a small smarty pipe up with literal soundings-out of words like “Colonel,” “intrigue,” “spatula,” and “quay” before we save them from themselves? How many hours of confusion must they spend debating the possible pronunciations of puzzlers like “awry,” “misled,” and “banal” before someone cries, “Enough!” — adding to the heartbreak by pronouncing “enough” correctly.

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The hours of shame spent over the misspent syllables of “debris” and “epitome,” “placebo” and “debut!” The family trips to Plymouth and Worcester ruined by shaming adult laughter! How many z-buzzing “rendezvous” must they have with before we intervene?

It’s a slippery slope, my friends, and that is why I’ve created a system called SKSYFEF, or Smart Kids, Save Yourselves from Embarrassment Forever. It’s a thin plastic film overlay with embedded technology that you can place on any book page, and just by pressing a trembling finger on a word, you can hear it pronounced.

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For example:

“No!” SKSYFEF will say. “You just THINK this name is pronounced FO-eeb, but it’s really FEE-bee. And, heads up, her friend in the next paragraph has KOL-era.”

I think it’s going to be a big hit with those precocious 7-10-year-old reading zealots (“ZEL-ots.”)

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Bonus! If you are amused by pronunciation humor, Dutch traveler Gerard Nolst Trenités poem about crazy English pronunciations, “The Chaos,” can be found here.

One thought on “The Hazards of Being a Precocious Young Reader

  1. VickeyB

    This is a great post! My 65 year-old brother is STILL tormented by his siblings with the word “tottering,” pronounced by 6-7 year old him as TOE-tering. He also had trouble with “Sioux” which has passed into family lore as “Mom. what is SIGH-ox?”

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