Reading is the real magic, so let's retire the rocket-science metaphor

Your four year old’s high pitch singing voice echoes from the living room, “A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P-Q-R-S-T-U-V-W-X-Y and Z. Now I know my ABCs. Next time won’t you sing with me!?”

“Again, Dad!”

Loud singing continues.

Your kids learned to read by singing! They started by singing the alphabet and then moved on to identifying the individual letters (pattern recognition) and the sounds they made. Eventually after watching you read and seeing the letters and words you pointed to, they began to sound out words by squishing them together and then by recognizing the patterns of individual words. From there it was on to simple sentences.

Teaching and learning to read is a gradual and time-consuming task, but it isn’t rocket science. Well, no, it's not. Rocket science is propulsion, and friction, and trajectory and such. Learning to read and teaching your child to read is way harder than rocket science, not because it's complex, but because it takes consistent attention over time and each child is different. Rocket science doesn’t even require reading as a prerequisite. In fact, all you need is a balloon, string, a straw, a binder clip, and a few more easy to find items.

When you boil it down, the rocket science metaphor should probably be dropped. Maybe we could replace it with, “It’s only rocket science. It’s not like reading!

Science at its most elementary is about pattern recognition and deduction. “Oh, look at those weird bumps on the leaf. What could they be? I bet they’re insects. Let’s cut them open and find out. Yep, there’s an egg.” It isn’t rocket science, and you and your child can practice it before or even as you are teaching them to read.