Monday, March 9, 2020

Monday, November 11, 2019

Monday, October 21, 2019

Examining the Self as Teacher

Mutegi, J. W., & Anderson, C. D. (2019). Examining the self as teacher: Reflection exercises to support consideration of STEM teaching careers. Paper presented at the Annual Noyce Summit, Washington, DC.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Reconceptualizing Science Education

Mutegi, J. W., Morton, C. H., & Etienne, L. K. (2019). Reconceptualizing science education for learners of African descent. In G. M. Prime (Ed.), Centering race in the STEM education of African American K–12 learners (pp. 71-93). New York: Peter Lang.

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Influence of Hip Hop

Mutegi, J. W., Phelps-Moultrie, J. A., & Pitts Bannister, V. R. (2018). The snare of systemic racism and other challenges confronting hip hop based pedagogy. Teachers College Record, 120(11), 1-17.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Friday, September 1, 2017

How to Teach an Infant to Read: Symbol Recognition

I'm of the mindset that it is never too soon to get our children moving in the right direction. There's a study by Anderson, Wilson and Fielding (1988)[1] which shows how an increase in reading corresponds to higher academic achievement. The figure illustrates that children who read an average of less than 1 minute a day score in the 20th percentile. That means that for every 100 students taking the test, these children score better than 20. This also means that 80 students score higher than them. By contrast, children who read 65 minutes a day score in the 98th percentile. That means that for every 100 students taking the test, these children score better than 98 other children. This also means that only 2 students score higher than them. So, we can give our children a tremendous advantage just by helping to foster in our children a love of reading and ensuring that they read each day.

Here are a few quick strategies that we can use with our infants to give them a head start on reading.

Recognizing and Identifying Symbols. Most of us easily identify the skull and crossbones or the bullseye as symbols. However, letters are symbols too. "D" is as foreign to a person who does not read English as "γ" is to a person who does not read Greek. Because children are not born English readers, the symbols that we call letters are foreign to them at some point.

When should we start? This activity is aimed at giving our children a head start on recognizing and identifying the symbols we call letters. If we wait until they get to school to start, it is too late. Once a child is able to open his eyes and follow the direction of your hand, you can begin. In my experience, this happens between the first and second month.

What do we do? Prepare 26 "flash cards" each with a single letter on it. The letter should be printed as large as possible. Although I call these flash cards, I recommend using a single sheet of 8.5" x 11" paper. Do not use fancy colors, fonts or graphics. Print black letters on white paper. The size and contrast is intended to help children to focus on the letters.

If your child is able to sit up facing you, then sit face to face. If not, then sit with your child in your lap. Go through each of the 26 letters one at a time. When reviewing each letter repeat the letter at least twice, and preferably three times. Trace the letter at least one of those times. For example: a mother might say "A" while tracing the letter. She repeats "A" while tracing the letter. She repeats a third time, "A" while tracing the letter. She then points to the letter and says, "This is the letter 'A'."

It should take no more than 10 minutes or so to work through all 26 letters. Repeat this 3-4 times a week for 3-4 months.

How do I know if it is working? When reviewing the letters, look for your child's responsiveness. Your infant will follow your hand as you trace the letters. He will look at the letters and look at you. As he gains dexterity with his hands, he will reach out towards the letters. Help him to trace them, if you would like. Over time, you will notice that your infant takes note of letters in other spaces. He may notice signage that is posted in public spaces. He may notice lettering on articles of clothing. These are all indications that he is recognizing these new symbols.

Most importantly... Enjoy this time and activity with your child. It is an important and invaluable use of time. It is also fun! You are working towards giving your child a gift that will put them in the 98th percentile of their peer group. It will also give you 65 minutes of quiet time every evening... And it is free! That’s what I call a win! Read more about the benefits of increased reading here.

And as always... Have Fun!

Jomo W. Mutegi, Ph.D. is an author of science-related children’s books, and an Associate Professor of Science Education at the Indiana University School of Education in Indianapolis. He is also Principal Investigator of the (ES)2 Research Program. To learn more about Dr. Mutegi’s books, visit To learn more about Dr. Mutegi’s research, visit

[1] Anderson, R. C., Wilson, P. T., & Fielding, L. G. (1988). Growth in Reading and How Children Spend Their Time Outside of School. Reading Research Quarterly, 23, 285-303.