Memorizing Books

Today I’m marveling that anyone has ever learned to read.

Mastering a difficult skill often consists of the patience and persistence to learn–and master–a relevant set of subcomponents for the whole.

And patience through steady progress is tough.

Reading is a great example. First, you need to learn all the letters and their sounds. Next, how they fit together into words, how each word sounds, and what it means. Then you need to bring the words together into sentences, and follow their meaning through the course of a story.

Taking only the first level–learning the words and their sounds. The average word is 5 letters long, and the average adult reads at 250 words per minute. So, on average, adults can identify a letter, its name, its sound, and its context in a word, at a rate of 20 letters per second. Pretty incredible.

Mastery is built a little at a time. Photo by Teemu Paananen on Unsplash

Two of my kids are 3 and 4 right now. One of the best parts of our day is reading a bedtime story together. They’re old enough to know all their letters and a few of their words, but they’re not reading yet.

Right now, it’s easier for them to memorize entire books than process letters one at a time.

They have memorized dozens of books. They’re really good at it. In fact, they’ll know a new book after only 3 or 4 readings. But – knowing an extra book by memory doesn’t get them any closer to reading on their own.

May we all have patience when we’re mastering new skills–because patience and steady progress are only way to get there.

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