Reading is a passport to an enchanted world of travel, romance and adventure, floating with the genie on a magic carpet where ever the tale takes you. With reading, children can go anywhere in the world! They can be princes or princesses, paupers, emperors, jugglers, martians, explorers in space or…. The possibilities are endless!
READING skills are extremely important, even VITAL to a child’s development. Reading develops the mind which needs exercise. Understanding the written word is one way the mind grows in its ability, and reading provides the mind with nourishment. Apart from giving us basic information about the world around us, it also provides us with food for thought and encourages us to think. It increases our hunger for knowledge and our thirst to learn more.
You will find that reading doesn’t come naturally to most children, but has to be taught as it is an acquired skill. If you are an ardent reader yourself, the joys of leading your little one into this world of fantasy and imagination will prove incredibly rewarding. Introducing their children to the old favorites, reading aloud to them and watching their eyes widen and grow bright with delight as they explore the wonder and pure magic of books, is a precious experience for parents.
HERE ARE SOME IDEAS TO USE PRINT FOUND IN YOUR EVERYDAY ENVIRONMENT TO HELP DEVELOP YOUR CHILD’S READING SKILLS.
- Cereal boxes are colorful and interesting to look at. Ask your child to find the first letter of his name somewhere on the box. See if he can find other letters from his name too.
- Have your child count the number of signs seen along the way. Choose a simple sign to focus on during one car trip (example: “stop sign”, “pedestrian crossing”, “one way”). Have your child read the sign, noticing that the same sign says the same message each time.
- Cut out familiar words from cereal boxes, labels from soup cans and from yogurt containers. Use these individual words (“Kellogs” “tomato” “Amul”) to talk about upper and lower case letters.
- Talk about the sounds of the letters you can hear (“The S makes the /ssssssss/ sound.”) (“The letter T says ‘tuh’”). Encourage your child to read the words you’ve cut out.
- After you’ve gathered lots of pictures of signs and words from items within the house, you can sort these items by beginning letters. A simple alphabet book can be created using all your cut-outs by organizing all the A words, B words, C words, etc.
- Use a digital camera to take pictures of different signs: speed limits, “Stop”, “Do not enter”, “Exit”. Use these pictures to make a small book for your child to read.
As Lewis Carroll puts it succinctly in his Walrus’ Song:
“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax— Of cabbages—and kings— And why the sea is boiling hot— And whether pigs have wings.”
There are certain skill-areas that form the foundation for reading. Kids who develop strong skills in these areas have greater success learning to read:
Children need to have knowledge of print
Children have to understand that print carries a message, and recognize that people read text rather than pictures. They need to be aware of how to read a book—right side up, from beginning to end, from left to right, from the top to the bottom of the page etc.
Let us look at Environmental Print which is the print of everyday life. For many emergent readers, environmental print helps bridge the connection between letters and first efforts to read.
Labels on food and the ‘S’ in Supermarket are examples of environmental print. There are letters all around us! Expose your child first to the letters found in labels, logos, street signs and candy wrappers.
Adults can take advantage of all this print by using it in different ways to talk about letters, words, and print: like playing the license-plate game during a long car ride (everyone find an A, now a B). Playing with environmental print can be quick and easy.
Children need to learn to use print in a meaningful way.
Children need to be aware how text should look: letters grouped together into words with spaces between words. They need to know how strings of words become sentences and how sentences end in full stops and start with a capital letter. For example, a child’s first efforts to use known letters or approximations of letters to represent written language, may be to attempt to write his or her name.
Children develop these skills by having many early experiences with language, books, and print. They can have these experiences as part of everyday life, through play, conversation, and a wide range of activities. Young children use play and talk as a way to expand, explore, and make sense of their world. When kids talk about daily tasks and special events, tell stories, sing songs, and scribble, they are laying the groundwork for reading and writing.
Children who do not have enough experiences with language, books, and print often experience problems when attempting to read. They need more time devoted to helping them develop the skills that lead to reading, at home and in their early childhood programs. A lack of developmentally appropriate skill-building at an early age can significantly limit the reading and writing level a child attains.
A child’s intelligence (within a normal range, as measured by standardized tests) does not determine the ease with which she/he will learn to read and write. However, for about 5% to 7% of kids, a learning disability — a different way of processing information and learning — may account for their difficulty in learning to read. These children will need additional specialized instruction and support. When you and other adults around your kids encourage them to talk, ask, questions, and use dramatic play, it increases their vocabulary, allows them to hear and practice building sentences, and gives them more knowledge to understand spoken and written language.
Reading to the child before going to bed helps the child feel secure and comfortable while sleeping. You can get children into the habit of reading bedtime stories. A child who grows up reading is definitely enriched as a young person. The child automatically takes to reading. If the habit of reading is formed during an early age, reading soon becomes a hobby.
What’s stopping you, dear mothers and fathers, from providing the KEY to a whole new world of Adventure, Fantasy and Magic, to your tiny and notso- tiny ones? Go for it!
– Dr. Vasantha Edward
Dr. Vasantha Edward, Educational Consultant, has had a rich and varied career in the field of Education both in India and abroad. Happily married for 47 years to Mr. Prince Edward (retired Principal), she is a firm advocate of the home being the foundation for building the right value systems in children. She strongly believes that to help young minds develop and grow to their fullest potential, we need to nurture them with sensitivity and care. She is especially interested in helping young people become proficient readers. She has three grandchildren who are the pride of her life.