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Camilla, a first-grader is amusing herself with her mother’s phone while Mom tries on clothes at the store. She recognizes a message from Dad and answers it. Soon Camilla is shouting into the dressing room, “Mom, how do you spell ‘shopping’?” Camilla is a reluctant reader with little confidence. Now she is happily texting with Dad and asking for help in deciphering his messages. Another win for social media. Now what? Will an early introduction to the seductions of text messages interfere with future learning? According to a Neilson survey, the average American teen texts 3,339 messages per month.
David Crystal, linguist and author of “Texts and Tweets: Myths and Realities,” believes that language is evolving as it always has. “Teenagers say that they text because ‘It’s cool.’ You can’t be cool unless you know the rules,” Crystal said. Current research reveals that the best texters are the best readers and spellers because they are getting lots of practice. Studies published in the British Journal of Computer Assisted Learning and the Australian Journal of Educational Development and Psychology found a positive correlation between texting and literacy, concluding that texting is “actually driving the development of phonological awareness and reading skill in children.”
To abbreviate message as “msg” or tonight as “2nite,” you must understand how sounds and letters work, and how words are constructed. Texting encourages students to think about these relationships, helping them to understand how words are built. Creating a textism, just like writing a poem, isn’t easy. To create a readable textism one must break the word into something short and catchy without sacrificing meaning.
Turns out that abbreviating words has a very long history. Abbreviations are a natural part of the evolution of language. OK, the most popular American word in the world, was invented during the age of the telegraph, because it was concise. Teachers were not impressed! Every new technology — from the printing press to the telegraph, radio, telephone, TV (oh, there’s another one) to the cell phone—inevitably inspired new spelling, new abbreviations, and new words. We do it all the time…BBQ…RIP. The most popular textisms are becoming official; OMG entered the Oxford English Dictionary last year.
Try decoding these rebus puzzles of the Victorian age. Lewis Carroll and Queen Victoria were big fans. 1. C u l8er 2. I c u r yy 4 me
Now, a current example: 3. Guess the age of the poet.
O hart tht sorz
My luv adorz
He mAks me liv
He mAks me giv
Myslf 2 him
As my luv porz
How early did the following abbreviations become acceptable?
Up to this point in the column the topic has been the mechanics of reading, which is certainly foundational to all reading and writing to come. At Children’s Reading Alliance we are concerned with building on that firm foundation to develop the love of reading, the wings that take readers all over the universe, from the past and into the future and to places only imagined. Today’s reality is that many of our children have lost precious time in skill building and the application of those skills to provide a well-informed life rich in opportunities in literature and every kind of reading, the fun part, the important stuff.
Children’s Reading Alliance is committed to reaching all of our children with quality reading opportunities. Whether you are sheltering at home or eager to get out your participation is needed. Join us by mentoring a young reader, reading to a group of children, performing back-office duties, or donating much needed funds.
Visit us at www.childrensreadingalliance.org, Contact Jennifer Alvarado at 575 522-3713, ,mail a check to Children’s Reading Alliance, 3880 Foothills Road, choose Children’s Reading Alliance as your charity when ordering from Amazon Smile.
Rorie Measure is president emeritus of Children's Reading Alliance, a grassroots initiative to encourage family literacy throughout Doña Ana County. She is a reader, writer, teacher, reading specialist and literacy trainer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.