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Kids take different neural paths to reach print mastery

11:35am, April 26, 2005

Ethan refused to play with the children who attended his first-birthday party. He ignored the presents that they brought for him. When Ethan's father tried to hold him in his lap, the boy wriggled free and returned to his true passion—scanning printed material. On this special day, Ethan plopped on the floor by his father's chair and intensely perused a pile of magazines. Although Ethan couldn't read, print riveted his attention with a power that neither brand-new toys nor gooey birthday cake could approach.

Ethan's romance with print blossomed with time. At age 1, he scrutinized each license plate in the supermarket parking lot. At 2 1/2, he placed letter-emblazoned blocks in alphabetic order and corrected his mother, by moving her hand, when she pointed to the wr

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