Okay so I just learnt that apparently the five finger rule is like a thing? Obviously it’s been a little while since I was a wee tyke, so I’ve missed this little piece of pedagogical bullshit, but to summarise:

  1. Choose a book that you think you will enjoy.
  2. Read the second page.
  3. Hold up a finger for each word you are not sure of, or do not know.
  4. If there are five or more words you did not know, you should choose an easier book.

And… holy shit. Whoever thought this up must either hate books or kids or both because… wow.

I get that not all kids are natural readers–and I’m hardly an early childhood education expert–but, like, isn’t this whole thing kinda missing the sentence for the words? Language is about understanding and understanding is built through context, not through 100% perfect knowledge of every word in the wiktionary (similarly, the reverse is also true).

Also I grew up reading a lot of genre books, particularly ones stolen from my dad’s bookshelf. If I stopped reading every time I got to a page with five unknown words on it, I’d never have finished anything.

I also don’t really have any strong memories of reading a lot of “kid’s books” as a kid, which I guess is a side effect of growing up in a bookish household. Like, I had picture books when I was really little–including a very, very early memory of racing out of bed one night to ask my parents why the “i” and “n” were printed upside-down in a Meg and Mog book–and I deeply resented my kindergarten readers because they were of the “I can run” variety, when at home I was slogging through The Hobbit (well, dad was helping me, but it still counts!). My earliest memories of books I was really “into” are from when I was around ten-to-twelve-ish, and include Robin Jarvis, Brian Jacques, Mercedes Lackey, the Red Dwarf novelisations, and–in my most epic childhood purchase and the only book my parents have ever confiscated from me–Clive Barker’s Books of Blood vol. 4-6.

Oh, and also a more “age appropriate” book called something like “heads and tales”, in which one of the main characters was a sort of anthropomorphic stegosaurus, with three diamonds on its back; the two outer ones each being half the size of the one in the middle. At the time, we called this character the “Hyper-tense” because it was the best pronunciation our eleven-year-old selves could figure out for its name. It took me until high school mathematics to finally figure out the pun.

And, like. That was a long time ago–partially evidenced by the fact I can’t remember the title of that damn book (yes I tried Googling)–so my memories are a little unclear, but…

I’m gonna bet the word “hypotenuse” appeared more than five times on a fair few pages.

Just sayin’.