Kids & Parents

Helping Kids Become Readers: Let me Put a Bug in Your Ear

“Are there a lot of bugs in your house?” the medical resident queried me tentatively. 

First, nervous laughter.

Then, an attempt to sound convincing:

“Ummm, you know…just the occasional spider or housefly…I mean, everyone gets some bugs, right?”

But it’s pretty hard to sound confident when lying on a clinic bed, depending upon a medical professional to extract a living creature from your ear canal in the middle of the night.

A few hours earlier, a ridiculously loud, annoying, scratching sound (think needle-on-a-record player, but amplified exponentially), accompanied by a tickle in my ear, made me come to the conclusion that there was some sort of living thing, likely an insect, trapped in my ear.

I tried shaking my head.

Fear of unknown

What’s your least favorite bug? I hoped there was something other than this in my ear. Does any animal really need ALL those legs?

Lying in the dark. Tipping my head to one side for a long time, then the other side.

The noise and movement would stop for a while, but always returned more furiously than the last time.

Whatever was in there wanted to get out as much as I wanted it to get out, but it was digging the wrong way.

Can a bug burrow into someone’s brain?

Can it pierce an eardrum with a bite? What if it dies in there?

These were just some of the thoughts that drove me to seek professional medical attention.

That…and, oh-my-gosh-there’s-a-bug-in-my-ear-GET-IT-OUT-NOW!!!

So I risked becoming dubbed “The Girl With The Bug in Her Ear” and went to the clinic.

Now that I look back on it (though lost to me at the time), the fact that I could sense this creature is pretty incredible.

I mean, sure, like there are invisible waves that move through the air and we have these highly developed body parts and brains designed to catch, amplify and make meaning of these air movements!

It sounds like science fiction, because we are accustomed to the miracle.

(Here's the segue to something useful.)

Using your ears to hear the sounds of language is super important for literacy, but that’s just one of the ways our ears are important in learning how to read.

The inner ear also houses the vestibular system, which helps your body know where it is in space.

When you move your head or body, the gel-like substance in your inner ears moves and sends messages to your brain.

Once it’s gotten enough experience, the vestibular system allows you to keep your balance, move your head without getting dizzy, and track objects with your eyes.

Child swinging

Hey, Ma, look at me! I may look like I’m just having fun, but I’m also developing my vestibular system!

All important for reading. What’s more:

A vestibular system that’s been allowed to mature helps the brain and body maintain sustained focus and attention.

Meaning, sit still and concentrate for long periods of time. Also vital for reading and academic success.

So how do you help your child develop their vestibular system?

The good news is, everything you’re already doing is helping this process. You just might want to do more of it!

Those trips to the park, the trampoline in the backyard, that nature hike, jumping off the swings, spinning on the office chair?

All those activities don’t just help your child sleep better – they grow your child’s vestibular system, preparing your child for reading readiness.

Want to learn more about the importance of the vestibular system and how to develop it?

Watch this fascinating TEDx talk by Angela Hanscom, or click here or here.

And, when you’re not out playing flashlight tag or climbing a tree with your kids (or if you're perpetually tired like me, playing with your kids this way), we’ve listed extra DPPL resources below.

Because the library has a lot of great ways to spend time connecting, growing, learning and laughing together too.

1KB4K and Patch Club Poster

Support early literacy and sign up for a year-round reading club!

If your child is 0-5, try our 1KB4K program (1,000 books before Kindergarten).

Kindergarten through 8th graders read different kinds of books and earn patches in our Beginning Reader or Independent Reader Patch Clubs.

Special promotion – September only (while supplies last, of course)!

Check in or sign up for 1KB4K or Patch Club, and take part in our promotion!

Among the prizes you might win:

  • Weekday passes to the Ball Factory (donated by Ball Factory)
  • Whisper phone (reading into it amplifies speech sounds and helps new readers with learning sounds and reading fluently)
  • Passes to the Brookfield Zoo (donated by Brookfield Zoo)
  • ...and more!
Titles by Jackie Silberg

Looking for new ways to play at home? 

Jackie Silberg to the rescue! When I'm out of ideas of my own, she brings fast, accessible and fun activities to our family. Which ones will become your child's favorite games?

Try The learning power of laughter : over 300 playful games, activities, and ideas that promote learning with young children, or Games to play with toddlers, or Brain games for babies, toddlers & twos.

Build-a-Book program at DPPL

Check out our Build-a-Book program.

Parents and caregivers will create and produce a personalized story for their 0-4 year old child.

One of the best ways to "do" early literacy (meaning, giving kids experience with words verbally and in print before they can truly read and write) is to fill your child's everyday life with vocabulary and narrative.

Can You Make a Scary Face? By Jan Thomas

Get the best of both worlds - hilarious physical activity incorporated within the narrative - in the super fun Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas.

And, in case you're interested, the character on the cover ended up being the same species as my little ear-y friend, probably the least disturbing of possibilities (unless you're an aphid). Thankfully, I ended up with just a bite, some antibiotic drops just in case, and no lasting damage...sadly, it didn't end as well for the critter.

The Unwinding of the Miracle

The unwinding of the miracle : a memoir of life, death, and everything that comes after

by Julie Yip-Williams

Because this author's account of the miracle is absolutely unforgettable.

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