Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A wee bit o' toothiness

February 28th is National Tooth fairy Day and February is Dental Health Month and I thought I'd touch on something I bet you didn't know could be related to loose teeth. Reading Readiness.

Years ago I took an excellent class on Children's Literature and Emergent Literacy. My student teacher in the class had just finished her PHD in some high falutin thing dealing with neurology and children and she spoke to us about this fabulous discovery. A discovery I thought was so cool I wanted to know more about and sadly I cannot locate anything on the web so please bear with me this is an idea, a correalation and it is pretty fascintaing.

Here in the U.S. we (not all of us, thankfully) put a lot of pressure into early literacy. Parents brag about their child reading at age 3, about their infant reading and so on. What they don't realize is that it doesn't matter how early your child reads, the earliness is no indication of intelligence let it go, it is whether or not your child is READY to learn and that isn't about intelligence either, THAT is about biology and physiology and it will all click into place and your child will be none for the worse. If you are a follower of the Waldorf philosophy you will know that a prime age for teaching reading is around age 7. Did you know what else happens around age 7 and even earlier in some children? Loose teeth. There is a series of nerves that run along our upper jaw that dance all over our faces and end somewhere in the part of our brain that likes to party with abstract thought and symbol recognition. The stronger this nerve grouping gets the more able your child is to understand the symbolism in a picture, number or letter. Around age 5 when this nerve grouping really starts to strengthen (and this can happen when a child is younger also) you may notice a difference in your child's artwork. They start with the traditional hammer grip and make marks on paper or sidewalk with large sweeping motions. This brash movement falls in line with large motor skills and slowly works its way over to small/fine motor skills as your child adapts to hold her or his crayon in the pencil grip which if you notice may mirror how you hold your own pencil. As the fine motor skills develop and the grip becomes more able you will notice that the scribbles and brush strokes become shapes. People will be drawn as large circles with wavy lines to emulate limbs. This is called a mandela and children all over the world will go through this phase. Cool, no? As your child grows older, the pencil grip more firm and the teeth get looser and looser. This all corresponds to those nerves that run across the jaw and into the part of the brain that recognizes abstract thought. Think about it, you may have more than 1 child and you will notice that each child learned in their own way at their own time, did their loose teeth come at anytime relating to their artwork? Once a child's drawing of a car actually looks like a car, they have acknowledged ABSTRACT THOUGHT. Once that begins they will start to recognize that those letters that they sing about actually have more meaning then just the shape. Yes, A is for Apple but that is just a child reciting, memorizing, once they can understand that the letter A is a symbol for a sound and that each letter makes a sound and that each sound strung along with another sound can make a word...BAM! They are ready for reading. I'm not saying don't try to teach your child to read, of course you should make your home as literary friendly as possible but don't push.

Children love nothing more than sharing with you and anyone who will watch whatever new talent they have mastered. Whether it is hopping on one foot, counting to 10, using scissors or discovering glue, it makes them feel good. It makes them feels secure! When a child is feeling good all the time with all this mastery, reading can prove to be a whole other piece of fruit. Reading isn't easy. A child may start hollering out letters and words he or she recognizes while you are driving down the street. He or she will pull out a favorite book and attempt to read it, jumping the gun only the slightest and they will realize that they don't know ALL the words. This can be intimidating. I remember this very same experience myself. I know of an amazingly talented and creative young man who could do just about anything but at age 8, reading wasn't easy and he lost a lot of confidence in himself. He also started losing his teeth a little later than his friends. He's 10 now and a book freak often reading well past bedtime with a flashlight aimed at the pages. People scoffed and were alarmed when I mentioned his not reading yet but really, why? There is a huge difference in learning to read, reading later and illiteracy. Force a child too soon they may just lie and pretend to read. I know of another friend who is one of the most avid readers I know and she told me she couldn't read until 2nd grade after she finally told her sister she needed some help. You are the person who best knows your child. You will guide the min the right direction I am sure. Remember, it isn't a contest, your children's skills are not trophies to show off. Each and every child is an amazing human being all by themselves, there comes a time when their amazing smiles are toothless and their noses are tucked into a book. Read Across America Day is coming up on Friday. What are you going to do to foster your child's love of reading? Me? I would get out those art supplies!

Now on to Tooth Day:
* a list of toothy reads for youto enjoy
*make a wee trinket box to keep baby teeth safe for the tooth fairy
*make an envelope book as a keepsake for babyteeth and those tooth fairy notes
*go modern and pick up a tooth fairy pillow or make your own
*a goofy online site for games and fun
*go toothbrush shopping!
*paint with old toothbrushes
*the facts about teeth
*sing a silly song
*get this singing toothbrush for picky toothbrushers (i got this for my nephew when he was 3 and he loved it! Though it is a little annoying.)


  1. Fascinating! I wish I could go back in time and watch the development as my kids started losing their teeth. But, alas, we are past that stage and my memory is wretched.

  2. Definitely food for thought. I shall keep my eyes open for a correlation when my son starts to lose teeth.
    In the meantime I shall read, read, read, cos I enjoy it just as much as my oldest son does.

  3. I'm not sure I'm buying this explanation. I was a somewhat precocious reader (5 yrs in first grade)and I had good comprehension right from the get-go of reading. I didn't lose my first tooth until I was in the fifth grade (11 yrs). I was an excellent and voracious reader starting at age 5. I didn't lose my last tooth until I was 18 and had to pull it myself or the orthodontist wouldn't remove my braces.
    My mother was slow to lose her teeth as well (but was also reading by age 6), and my children are showing the same tendency, getting their first teeth months after other children. We'll see how reading comes along, and I certainly won't push them, but I doubt it will have anything to do with when they lose their milk teeth.