Guest Blogger Jana Mathews: Everyone talks about how important it is to teach your children to read, but the dark underbelly of preschool phonics is rarely, if ever discussed. I learned the hard way that a child that can read Green Eggs and Ham also has the ability to sound out the four-letter words that are scrawled on the backs of train and bus seats with a black Sharpie.
Last Saturday, my family escaped from the profane literary world of Philadelphia's public transportation system to the safety of the city's anatomy museum, a place where all of the exhibits' placards are written either in vocabularies too advanced for my three 5-year-olds, or in a language (Latin) completely foreign to them.
As it turns out, my efforts to prevent insurgent readership were unnecessary: my kids were far too busy examining the museum's treasures -- including jars of fetuses with congenital abnormalities and wax molds of half-corroded faces, butts, and armpits caused by syphilis -- to be bothered with the written material posted underneath or next to the displays.
While a vast collection of human skulls served as the museum's focal point, the real prize was a roomful of body parts floating in jars of formaldehyde. I was showing my sons a collection of noses when my daughter pointed to a jar containing a shriveled pickle.
"What's that?" she asked.
I read the placard and answered, "A severed finger."
I turned back to the nostrils, but not before my daughter screamed "Liar!" in my face.
"That's not a finger," she said authoritatively, gesturing to a 5x7 sign. "It's a penis. P-E-N-I-S."
Needless to say, all interest in facial cartilage instantly evaporated.