Presentation on theme: "By Walt Prentice. Children learn what is demonstrated. In our house, reading was something we all did and enjoyed. Books were everywhere. It is only natural."— Presentation transcript:
Children learn what is demonstrated. In our house, reading was something we all did and enjoyed. Books were everywhere. It is only natural that our daughter, Carrie, took an early interest in books and reading, and learned to read before entering the first grade. Here is how she did it.
Books were among Carrie’s favorite playthings, and we never doubted that she would learn to read. At first we did all the reading; Carrie listened and thought and processed the language going into her brain through her ears and her eyes. Then she started to take over.
At first, she would fill in a word that she knew if we paused in our reading. (We read the same books over and over so she learned them “by heart.”) Gradually, she was able to “read” some books from memory. She would then read her favorites to her dolls or stuffed animals, or her little brother.
One night, after we had turned out the light, Carrie (now 4 and ½ years old) hopped out of bed, turned the light on, and got the book we had just read to her, “Too Much Noise.” As she read it over to herself, she suddenly recognized a word: “Outside”. She had matched the spoken word in her head to the written word on the page.
Voila! Carrie found other occurrences of “Outside” in “Too Much Noise” (which has a repeating pattern, like many folktales), then located it in other books she knew by heart. From there she figured out other words until she had a considerable “reading” vocabulary. Carrie was on her way to independent reading. The bed creaked. The floor squeaked. Outside, the wind blew the leaves through the trees. The leaves fell on the roof. Swish. Swish. The tea kettle whistled. Hiss. Hiss. “Too noisy”, said Peter.
Of course this is an “abbreviated” story, but all the elements for learning to read are here. I’ve identified five (5) factors that lead naturally to reading—the “5 R’s of Reading Readiness”—which follow. Note: You will find an article I wrote, “Introducing Children to Reading”, which appeared in the Fall 1980 issue of the Wisconsin State Reading Association Journal, on my website “waltprentice.com”. It contains a useful bibliography for those interested in reading more about factors contributing to early reading.
Research has found that the single most important thing you can do to support children’s literacy development is to read aloud to them. Reading aloud makes written language accessible to all children; it exposes them to the meanings in books and to the sounds and signs of print. Your lap is the “best seat in the house” for your child to learn how print works, and how much fun it is to read.
Children want to hear their favorite stories read over and over again. They know the value of repeated reading! It is almost as if they are “drilling” themselves in the patterns of written language. Multiple exposures to the same story and text allow the child to figure out how books work, and to memorize whole books for “practice” later. Children will begin to “join in” the reading of books they have heard over and over again, a big step toward independence in reading.
Children who are read to on a regular basis, and who have heard some stories over and over again, will quite naturally role-play being a reader; i.e., they will page through a book and pretend to read it. Role-playing in an important strategy in learning a new skill. It gives the child the feeling of what it’s like to be a reader. You may find your child “reading aloud” to a stuffed animal from a book she “knows by heart”. Now you know she is on her way to independent reading.
Learning anything new is risky; the learner must be willing to “take chances” as she attempts to acquire a new set of skills. Children who are afraid to make mistakes will find it very difficult to learn to read. You must be supportive and encouraging, and accept your child’s first approximations to reading. Your child will take the risks necessary to learn to read if she trusts you to appreciate her efforts.
Children are natural-born language learners. Just as they learn to talk and comprehend speech without formal instruction, so they can learn to read if we respect their innate language-learning ability. Taking time out from our busy day to read aloud to our children is a sign of respect for them. Accepting what children can do, rather than focusing on what they cannot do, is a sign of respect, and of our confidence in them as learners.
So, if you read to your child from a very early age, read his favorite books over and over again, answer his questions about print, value his role-playing and risk-taking with print, marvel at his considerable language-learning abilities, accept his approximations (rather than expecting “correctness” at the outset), and believe that he will become literate, then it will happen. Of course there is more to it—that’s what schools are for. But you will have provided the foundation that will ensure your child’s success in school. And you both have had great fun sharing in the joys and excitement of books!
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