I was transcribing an interview with a woman describing some of her childhood memories. She mentioned one anecdote in which she was pretending to be able to read to try to impress her aunt. I’m not really sure how one would go about doing that, but it got me thinking: is it normal to have coherent memories from before you learned how to read? I learned to read at a fairly young age, so none of my memories from before then are clear.
I have no memories of not being able to read. Zip, zero, none. I remember sitting in a classroom where the teacher was going over the letters of the alphabet. I wasn’t learning anything I didn’t already know.
I have a very clear memory of someone showing me a coin, and realizing that the letters on it represented words, even though I couldn’t read them.
I have memories from before I could walk, circa age 1.
I have a few memories from beforing learning to read:
Sitting in my dad’s lap while he read to me and my brother and Daddy realizing that, because I had to get my nose practically onto the page to see a smallish pen-and-ink illustration, I had bad eyesight. I was about 4 y.o.
Swinging on a swing the backyard when I was only about 3 (don’t know why I remember that one, I just do).
Trying to run away from home when I was about 4. I piled all my stuffed animals, my best Sunday dress, and a handful of graham crackers on my favorite blanket, only to discover that I wasn’t strong enough to drag it down the hall. I remember being so frustrated. Years later, my mom told me she had to go into the bedroom, close the door and put a pillow over her face to muffle her laughter.
I definitely have memories from before I could read. I didn’t learn until first grade. In kindergarten, we did lots of exercises with letters, but were never taught anything about connecting those letters into words. I have many memories of kindergarten, and a few from before that time. In fact, I very clearly remember being pissed off that some kids did learn to read in kindergarten and made up for that deficit in record time. I was probably the strongest reader in the class by the end of first grade.
Cryptic, I’m surprised that you don’t know how someone would pretend to read. Most kids try at some point - in my experience, they’re basically looking at the pictures and making up a story that fits the pictures. It’s actually a great creative exercise at any age; sometimes I think they ought to publish children’s picture books with no words precisely to encourage kids to make up their own stories to go along. (And, yes, rule-whatever of the Internet means that someone has just done so and it’ll be there in time for me to Google it.)
I have memories of pre-school, and at least one hazy memory from before I was two.
Hard to say, since I don’t remember NOT being able to read. I was reading fluently well before the age of 4. I do remember not entirely understanding numbers, though, which is weird.
Definitely. I remember playing with alphabet blocks and not knowing what they were. My sister taught me what they meant. I remember in first grade, trying to figure out what the point was of having capital letters and small letters. What’s the need for both “A” and “a.” It seemed dumb.
(I also thought “descenders” – p and g and q – were dumb. Draw the line, and stay above it. How hard is that?)
I have a complicated surname; I was the last kid, in 2nd grade, to learn how to spell his own name.
About the time I turned 4, I heard my parents remarking that they should teach me to read soon. I wouldn’t let them forget that, and kept pestering them for months until they finally taught me to read when I was 4½.
Prior to that, I was in pre-K where the letters of the alphabet, in both roman font (“printing”) and cursive script, had been cut out of sandpaper and glued to brightly painted wooden boards. One for each letter in both cases in each font. The children were meant to tactilely trace out the lines of the letters to become familiar with their shapes, even if ahead of their sounds. So when I was 4, although these letters of mounted sandpaper carried no meaning for me, leaving my imagination to wander freely, somehow I imagined each letter was a house on fire, and the sandpaper lines diagrammed the escape routes, so in tracing over each one I would find the quickest escape routes (out of the roof, out of the front or back doors, or through the basement) for each letter and compare which letters were safer than others vs. which were firetraps.
But idle fancy alone wasn’t enough. My young mind craved real knowledge of real things, and I hungered for learning to actually read the letters instead of just playing fire inspector with them (it got old), which is why I kept pestering my parents to teach me, because pre-K wasn’t. When they finally did, I learned very quickly, and at a relatively young age. Perhaps the mounted sandpaper letters actually did give me a running start on literacy.
I remember learning to read. I remember sights and sounds - things like the layout of our apartment, the sight of my Dad in his flight suit, my mom telling me that if I was a puppy (as I insisted I was) then I couldn’t have dessert because puppies don’t get dessert - from before I could read.
I have a handful of distinct memories from prior to age four. That’s when more generalized memories kick in. It’s also the age I learned to read, but I have very clear memories of my sister teaching me to read.
Of course. It’s supposed to be unusual to have memories from before you could speak in complete sentences, not before you could read.
As detailed before, I have a very clear memory from 10 months, of an orange tiger in the clouds during the sunset, and yes, that word entered my mind when I beheld said sight-so even tho I couldn’t read per se, I know my parents read to me, and I must have picked that word up from something they read to me.
I remember more than I would have thought:
Naming my grandfather’s boat. (“What should we name Grandpa’s new boat?” “Summasalt.”)
Playing with the next door neighbor (and his dog)
I can recall the layout of the house we lived in; we moved away just before I entered kindergarten
Trading in our green car for a blue Plymouth.
The time I stuck my finger in a electrical outlet.
My younger brother coming home from the hospital.
Alaska becoming a state. (“Alaska’s a new state.” “What was it before?”)
I remember my nursery school and my house when I was 4.
Before I could read my father’s workplace, a Goodyear plant, had a Christmas party and employees could get small gifts to give to their kids.
My dad was late and all he could get were books. I got a copy of Robinson Crusoe. There were pictures in the book and I remember wondering what they represented.
I still have, 55 years later, that same book. When I learned to read it became strange to realize I couldn’t, at one time, understand the squiggles on the page.
I have a few hazy memories of really young childhood that may have been pre-literacy, but none involve reading or letters, so I can’t know for sure.
I learned to read very young tho - I could read pretty fluently in my 4k classroom, based on the ‘report cards’ that my mom saved.
I have a memory that I think happened before I learned to read - a Caribbean vacation. But I don’t have any memory of not being able to read. I do have a very vague memory of enjoying the Cat in the Hat books.
I wasn’t taught to read till first grade (kindergarten was play only 70+ years ago) and I remember just looking at comic books until I could read. I also remember scribbling something and telling my mother I could write. There a few more fragmentary memories.