Put reading first
IT IS AN established fact that some of our children are leaving school unable to read or not fluent in reading. People are quick to blame the school system but one must query the role parents played in all of this.
Parents are the first teachers of children and therefore should provide the correct environment that stimulates reading from an early age.
Teaching children to read can be one of the most rewarding experiences any parent can have, for it provides the opportunity to spend valuable time with them, creating a much-needed bond between parent and child. It also provides the child with an important tool for success, both in school and in life.
Reading is making meaning from print. It requires that children recognise words, construct an understanding from them (comprehension), make meaning so that reading is automatic (fluency), and motivation.
Start with the basics. Children learn in a variety of ways, therefore it is important to incorporate sight, sound, and touch as you teach each letter. Therefore teach them the shape of and the phonetics (sounds) of each letter. Have them identify each letter by name and then make the sound that each letter represents. The motor memory of the letters, listening to their sounds and seeing them in writing will reinforce new learning. Think up creative ways for children to learn each letter sound such as singing songs, or saying rhymes about the letter. Read to children a story that repeatedly uses that letter sound. To aid in the teaching, buy or make a set of flash cards with individual letters.
The reading of children could be handicapped if they do not master the alphabet and beginning letter sounds before school begins or in the early years. Encourage learning by providing age-appropriate reading material.
Make reading fun. Point out letters and words that children see every day (environmental print). When driving or walking to school, ask young children to “read” the signs they see along the way.
Read to your child. To children, being read to is a joy which provides valuable lessons. They learn that print goes from left to right, stories have a beginning and an end, and that print represents words and meaning. In addition, reading to children also broadens their knowledge of the world, increases their vocabulary, interest in reading and their comprehension skills as it gives them the opportunity to ask questions. Make books, newspapers or magazines available in the home.
Give positive reinforcement. Give rewards when children accomplish a given reading task. This could be in the form of verbal praise, a special treat or exciting stickers. Many children love this kind of reinforcement and will make more of an effort to learn to read.
Give children the tools they need to become literate and this will help save them from falling through the crack. Put reading first.
• Rhonda A. Blackman is an educator, a National Development Scholar and former president of the Early Childhood Association of Barbados Inc. Email: [email protected]