Wow Moments: Learning To Read Scripture from Toddlers

While reading Charles Fernyhough’s book, A Thousand Days of Wonder: A Scientist’s Chronicle of his Daughter’s Developing Mind I came across this brilliant metaphor for reading Scripture (I bolded the part I like the most):

Athena is seventeen months old. It is January, and we are relaxing in our living room with the fire glowing. She is wearing an orange T-shirt and green cardigan with dark blue detailing. Although steady on her feet, and capable of dexterous, focused movements, she still looks more like a walking baby than a little girl. Her hair has never been cut: it is blond, silky, and straight on top, finely curled around her ears. She has set up her little wooden table and she is going to do her puzzle. There is a board with cutout shapes for twelve colorful pieces. The train has been missing for as long as we can remember, but we still have the fish, the bee, the car, the sun, the teddy bear. The animals all have cheesy, sheepish grins and wobbly outlines, drafted, like most of her toys, in faraway China. ‘Pah, pah,’ she says (for puzzle), picking up the board from the floor. With Lizzie’s help she gathers all the pieces and sits down.

She has one piece already in her hand: the horse, which she places in its horse-shaped cutout in the top right-hand corner. “Horse ‘nere.” Horse in there. She picks up the duck. “What’s that one?” Lizzie asks. “Duck. ‘Nere.” She places it in the correct slot, but it won’t settle down and she glances up at her mother with a little gasp of frustration. Then it clicks into place, and Lizzie responds: “Good girl.” Parental involvement in these routines is as much about emotional support as it is about intellectual. Positive stroking keeps her focused on the task, and, ultimately, gives her a way of managing her own emotions, independently of Mum’s tireless encouragement. Athena has found the cat. “What’s that?” Lizzie asks. “Cat… Miaouw” Their minds meet across a little colorful concept; they are sharing attention. Athena is captured by the immediacies of the objects in front of her, while Lizzie’s focus is more strategic. She wants to get things named, make connections with Athena’s other known facts. She wants to elaborate. This is not about getting a job done–no one is really interested in whether the puzzle gets finished so much as taking time to think things through in collaboration with another person. Thinking starts off like this…Thought has a social life. It connects people, and parents have a big role in ensuring that the channels stay open.

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