When parents help their children learn to read, they help open the door to a new world. As a parent, you can begin an endless learning chain: You read to your children, they develop a love of stories and poems, they want to read on their own, they practice reading, and finally they read for their own information or pleasure. They become readers, and their world is forever expanded and enriched.
This newsletter focuses primarily on what you can do to help children up to 10 years of age. During these years you can lay the foundation for you child to become a lifelong reader.
There is no need to worry about the amount of time you need to devote, it is the quality of time that counts. Just be consistent—give as much time as you can each day to help your child. The activities suggested are designed to fit into busy schedules.
Helping your child become a reader is an adventure you will not want to miss. The benefits to your child are immeasurable, and in the process you will find your world becoming richer as well.
Do you ever get tired of hearing that same old question? But Why? Just remember, the best way for children to learn is to ask questions. Every child has a natural curiosity and their very own imagination. As a parent, or caregiver, you can awaken your children to the joy of learning by encouraging their imagination and curiosity.
For instance: Picking up toys does not have to be a chore that you dread, instead make it into a game of sorting; - sorting is a major function in math and science; let your child help you cook a meal—cooking involves not only math and science but good heath as well, tell stories together—storytelling is the basis for reading and writing. By doing things together, you will show that learning is fun and important. You will be encouraging your child to study, learn, and stay in school.
Where to Begin
There is no more important activity for preparing your child to succeed as a reader than reading aloud together. Fill your story times with a variety of books. Be consistent, be patient, and watch the magic work.
At just a few months of age, an infant can look at pictures, listen to your voice, and point to objects on cardboard pages. Guide your child be pointing to the pictures, and saying the names of the objects. By drawing attention to pictures and associating the words with both pictures and the real-world objects, your child will learn the importance of language. Child learn to love the sound of language before they even notice the existence of printed words on a page. Reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word. When the rhythm and melody of language become a part of a child’s life, learning to read will be as natural as learning to walk and talk.
Even after children learn to read by themselves, it is still important for you to read aloud together. By reading stories that are on their interest, level, but beyond their reading level, you can stretch young readers’ understanding and motivate them to improve their skills.
The Joy of Reading
Children learn from example. The best example you can give is to show your child your love of reading. You can do this by not only reading to your child, but by letting your child see you read.
We can help our children find the tools they need to succeed in life. Having access to information through the printed word is an absolute necessity. Knowledge is power, and books are full of it. But reading is more than just a practical tool. Through books we can enrich our minds, we can also relax and enjoy some precious leisure moments.
With your help, your children can begin a lifelong relationship with the printed word, so they grow into adults who read easily and frequently whether for business, knowledge, or pleasure.
In the words of Aristotle, ‘happiness is self contentedness helping to make children deeply and quietly glad that they are who they are, and give them a priceless legacy; the strength to meet life’s stresses and the courage to become committed, responsible, productive, creative, and fully human adults. . . Helping a child is the greatest gift you can five in the language of the human heart. It spells love in the most profound way. ”
A time to remember
Many children begin to recognize words on a page between the ages of 4—7. In today’s world this may begin by recognition of a logo, a favorite cereal box, or the cover of their favorite bed time story book. Think back to a time when you were young. What do you remember recognizing?
You can help remove part of the mystery without worrying about a lot of theory. Just read the stories and poems and let them work their wonders. There is no better way to prepare your child for that moment when reading starts to ‘click, ’ even if it is years down the road.
When the time comes that your child wants to read you the story, from the pictures, by all means let them, even if the story is not being told as per the written page. This is just the beginning of their desire to read to you. You can help your child’s transition by:
The above is an example of hieroglyphics. Can you imagine how you would feel if you were trying to translate an entire book of these symbols? That’s how children feel. But with a little patience, understanding and game playing it is certain to build confidence.
It is no secret that activities at home are important supplements to the classroom. There are things that parents and caregivers can give a child at home that the classrooms can not give. Memories of good time spent together to treasure, the stories that made them laugh and cry, sharing these times with someone they love and the way that it was taught to them to pass on to their own children. By reading aloud together, by being examples, and by doing other activities, parents are in a unique position to help children enjoy reading and see the value of it.
Keeping the fun in learning
It is important to keep reading time with your child fun and keep the tone and pace as lively as possible. Most children at some point will become distracted or just plain stubborn. It is in their nature to try and assert their own independence. If at this time you force the issue of having to sit still and read they are likely to rebel, leaving you frustrated and them seeing that learning is a chore not a fun activity. It is best if you let your child set the pace and do something different. They will come back to it when they are ready. Being a parent can sometimes be compared to a trainer. It takes patience, confidence, and playfulness in your approach to get the desired results. Children love to learn but at times they need a little breathing room. This way their interest will always be renewed.
It is important to try and keep to a schedule for reading with your child. This helps give your child a solid of organization and a time too look forward to each day. One of the best times is at bed time. This not only encourages the child to get ready for bed but helps to relax them, preparing them for a peaceful sleep. If you have more than one child, it is important to try and give each a reading time alone. However, it is also a big benefit to read together and allow the older child to participate in the reading to a younger child. This not only encourages the older child to read but helps show the younger child that it is possible to make sense of the jungle of words on a page. Encourage your child to ask questions about things they don’t understand, as well as give them the opportunity to voice what they think will happen next. Talking about Stories
Talking to your child about a story if often a good idea, however, don’t over-do it by feeling the need to discuss every story. Sometime a child needs a day or two to think about that you have read, then come back and ask questions about it or mention something that they remember. By allowing your child to voice their opinion on upcoming events in the story will also encourage them to think about what you are reading and promote reading comprehension. Another way to enhance the message that reading is fun for everyone, is to invite others to join the story time, for time to time. This will give your child other opinions to think about a variety of storytelling routines.
Remember to make reading with your child enjoyable, and increase writing, talking, and listening to boost your child’s love of language.
© Copyright Long, Debbie 2005
Debbie Long is a writer/illustrator and founding member of ‘The Muse Program', a literacy program for children. Debbie has spent many years writing curriculum for The Muse Program based on the Board of Educations curriculum units. She currently has the first two books in the Imagination Series published. ‘Short Stories with Imagination’ and ‘Story Building with Imagination’.