Dante amazes me all the time with the things he’s able to do, but today we reached a new level. I’ve known for a while that he’s good with letters — he’s known his ABCs for many months now, and sometimes recites them spontaneously. Since the end of summer or so, he has also taken to identifying letters that he sees out in the world, especially when they’re gigantic letters on big signs. “It says B-E-S-T-B-U-Y!” he’ll say. He’s also demonstrated that he has an excellent memory for strings of letters attached to a particular meaning. For instance, when he turns off a light he likes to say “O-F-F means off.” He also knows what D-A-N-T-E spells, and conversely, can spell his name when asked.

Lately, he’s taken to recognizing small words spontaneously. At first it was just logos — our local grocer is called King Soopers, and when he’d see the logo on a bag, he’d say “K-I-N-G spells king!” However, having taken in that C-A-T spells cat, he later recognized the word on a bag of cat litter he hadn’t seen before. All this is pretty astonishing to me, given that he’s, what, coming up on 30 months old.

Tonight, though, I moved from astonished to dumbfounded, after Laura showed me something new she tried with him. He has these Baby Einstein cards with an animal theme. Each card has a picture of an animal, and the animal’s name, like so:
Card with image of butterfly and the word "butterfly"

There are also a couple of blank cards in the set, so Laura had the bright idea to cover up the picture with the blank card, leaving only the word exposed:
Only the word "butterfly" showing

Then she asked Dante what the word is, and he immediately said, “Butterfly!” He then proceeded to do that with every single card in the set. Once in a while he needed a little prompting, along the lines of, “What letter does it start with?” He ended up getting every one, though, without being told. There are 25 of these cards.

Well, I thought, there are a bunch of things that are helping him remember those. The words are in different positions on different cards, so that narrows it down. Also, there are the colors behind each word from the photos. So I took out a legal pad and tried this:
The word "butterfly" written on a legal pad

“What’s this?” I asked him. He looked at it and said, “Butterfly!”


Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think he’s actually reading these words. When presented with a written word that’s in his vocabulary but that he may not have seen written before, he doesn’t sound it out and figure out what it says. In addition, he’s using context clues, in this case the animal theme — I wrote “dante” on the piece of paper and he immediately said “dragon.” (One of the cards is a dragonfly.) Only after I told him to read each letter did he realize it was his name. He basically has memorized all the letter patterns on those cards and is counting on the fact that he’ll be able to combine those memories with his knowledge of all the animals in that card set. In addition, I think he’s extrapolating from the length of the word and its starting letter — I wrote down “frog” and he said “fox.” However, I wrote a bunch of different words on that legal pad, and he identified them. Again, sometimes he needed to be prompted to slow down a bit or think about how the letters sound, but he’d always get to the right answer.

Now, I don’t have a lot of experience with kids, but I don’t think this is typical 2.5 year old aptitude. Is it? All I know is I feel blown away when I watch it. The little guy can’t jump, he doesn’t really run, and social situations are a pretty big challenge for him, but he is all over that alphabet. Yup… that’s my kid, alright.


5 thoughts on “A-M-A-Z-I-N-G

  1. I remember when

    At about the same age, actually a couple months younger, Dante’s father had memorized the complete Night Before Christmas and was able to recite it, when prompted. Though sometimes prompting wouldn’t work immediately and in unexpected circumstances it would come rolling out.

    Riding in the car on evening just before Christmas his visiting grandparents were delighted to hear the whole thing coming out of nowhere. We needed to drive around the block several times during the recitation so as not to break concentration.

    So it kind of runs in the family.

    Dear old dad

  2. Wowie zowie. What a boy. Love your last two sentences especially — they made me laugh all the way over here in London. Love the new photo too. Love from Sian xxxx

  3. I Know Exactly What You Are Experiencing!

    This situation is so much like your cousin Mike at that age… knew his letters, could pick out words from books, sight reading flash cards… we even started noticing him recognize things “out-of-the-box” so to speak. When riding along in car he would say, “There goes a Sear’s truck, and we didn’t even have a Sear’s in town or shop there. Things just started clicking and he was reading before age 3. But he was so much like Dante when you describe “can’t jump, doesn’t run,” and Mike was extremely/painfully shy in social situations. When he went off to kindergarten at age 4 (almost 5) I expected to hear great things from the teacher when I was called in for a conference the second week of school. She started first with the shyness issues and then with him not knowing his letters, and perhaps we should consider removing him from school until the following year. I replied that he not only knew his letters, but he had just read a children’s version of the Hobbit. When I discussed with Michael about why she’d think he didn’t know the letter “g,” he said he didn’t know he was allowed to know it yet. He had figured the pattern of the way the teacher was introducing the letters and didn’t want to do anything “wrong” as to stand out (most likely the shyness issue). It unfortunately was pretty much the same most of the way through grade school for him due to the shyness and lack of gifted programs… so I was challenged and completed the masters program in gifted & talented to help him! I was even his Gifted Teacher for one year! He is thriving now, a self proclaimed computer geek, but lost the shyness in high school when he finally found friends with similar interests in music and computers, and he has a large group of friends and his biggest outlet is still music/concerts, and computers… although his girlfriend is getting him to art galleries and theater as well!
    You are doing such a wonderful job motivating, educating, and loving Dante… you are real naturals as parents! Keep it up!
    Love always,
    Aunt Cindy

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