Naimah reading at 17 months

Maddy - mother to Naimah

Taken from Maddy's blog, at ""

I mentioned in my first post of the year, Nimisms, that Naimah was reading some words consistently – and that it wasn't a matter of her having memorized the sequence. Well, nearly 7 weeks later (on February 19), I finally managed to film her reading!

I've watched tons of baby reading videos on YouTube, and it always seems like someone's just picked up a camera and started shooting. Not so in our case. At least a couple of times it took me so long to get organized for filming that by the time I was ready, Nim was cranky and ready for her nap. Another time I was ready – only to realize I'd forgotten to charge the camera.

Then, there was the Mystery of Inconsistency. Nim would read certain words time and again, particularly in her word book – but when I would go to film her, she'd read about 1/3 of the words, and for the other 2/3 say something like "Gamina" (a made-up word). As mentioned (in Nimisms), Nim is never stumped! She will simply say something that sounds like a word if she doesn't know the name of something! ;)

For those unfamiliar with Little Reader, normally you will hear the pronunciation of the word as it flashes up on the screen. You then click your mouse to see the picture or animation associated with the word, and hear the word's sound effect (such as an animal noise). There can be more than one picture associated with a word, and they will automatically rotate. This is how you use Little Reader to teach your baby.

One of the best things about Little Reader is that all the settings are customizable. By turning the pronunciation off, you can see which words your baby actually knows. You should also select random order (whether giving a lesson or seeing what your baby has learned), because babies are great at memorizing sequence. This is one of the biggest drawbacks of using DVDs to teach your baby.

Other settings for selection include font style and color, and background color. Or, you can put them on random. That's what I'd normally do. But as I contemplated the Mystery of Inconsistency, I was struck by Glenn Doman's advice in How To Teach Your Baby To Read. The words have to be in a large enough font, he says, and you should start with red on a white background, followed by black on a white background. While I have never used red words, this made me wonder whether Little Reader's randomized colors and fonts could be foxing the Nim. They were! I switched to black on a white background in Arial (the largest font), and bingo! "Gamina" no more!

Take Two Thousand… and cameraman Liam pointed out that when the words were on a light background, they were impossible to make out in the video. So basically, you could either see the word (because it was on a colored background), or Nim could read the word (because it wasn't) – but almost never both! Arrghhh…

By this stage, Liam and I had amassed quite a collection of videos that were the reading equivalent of the Signing Genius video. ;)

Hmmm… I wondered: if Nim could read black on white consistently, might she also be able to read white on black?! YES!!!

By then, another weekend had passed and I was getting impatient. So I got out the tripod. I'm not much of a director though. And I never realized how much work could go into composing a simple shot (especially when you're clueless at it!).

There are windows on the back wall of our study, so in daytime, there's light coming from behind. So the curtains have to be drawn. But then it's too dark. I decided to leave the curtains open on the side to let some natural light in. (What I should've done was draw all the curtains and turn on the overhead light. Duh!)

I did some test shots. The composition was all wrong – either you couldn't see enough of Nim, or else the bright light of the side window entered the frame. In the process of making adjustments, I gave Nim the false impression that I was about to show her her Little Reader lesson. She responded by having a meltdown… ;)

After nursing Nim back from the brink, I made the quickest fix possible to my composition (or so I thought) – only to find when I watched it back that the star of the show was almost completely hidden by my right arm!

I called Liam at work and said, "Look, I just can't stand this anymore. I've been trying to do this for weeks. When you come home, can you just make sure Nim's visible while I'm using the mouse? Then I'll shoot it in the morning. I just can't figure it out without Nim having a meltdown!"

Liam came home, by which time it was dark – lighting problem fixed! I'd been trying to make the video in the early part of the day when Nim is most energetic, but we ended up shooting at 7:30pm. Liam the photography whizz waltzed in and fixed everything. He turned on the overhead light and the desk lamp and told me to use the mouse with my left hand (duh!). Then instead of just checking the composition, he shot the video. And Nim read all the words, just like we knew she could!

(In case you're wondering, "Muck!" means "Milk!" ;) )

To paraphrase Rachel Coleman's words of encouragement to parents of baby signers, I will say this: If your baby can read, I believe you! You may not be able to get it on camera, but if you say it's happening, I'm sure it is! Keep up the great work!!