Encouraging A Child’s Literacy Skills
The ideas put forth years ago by Maria Montessori regarding literacy are once again being revisited in this generation. Once a child has mastered the understanding of even simple language, the next logical step in language development is literacy. Maria Montessori, one of the first female pediatricians, was the first to describe the young child’s mind as a vehicle for absorbing language, demonstrating a need for facilitating this early on. According to Montessori philosophy, there are particular phases of development, called “sensitive periods” in which literacy skills may be acquired more readily. The “absorbent mind” allows writing skills to develop easily between the ages of three and four. Reading skills seem to emerge more naturally between age’s four till five. Once this process begins children begin deciphering new words like little sponges. It is my own experience, as a former pre-school owner, that children can learn to read as early as three rapidly decoding new words with ease.
Children who learn to read earlier are at a greater advantage as it provides a preventative measure. Early education can lead to sooner detection of potential reading challenges prior to entering elementary school. If these are corrected beforehand the child will not experience further frustration later on.
Those who enter other programs, with the advantage of knowing how to read already, have an excellent head start. This can ease the transition from pre-school into elementary school. It is far more challenging, for a child to learn to read in the elementary grades, when classes are much larger, student teacher ratios smaller, and interest is not nearly as keen. In this situation the teacher may not have the time to listen to each child read individually, which is an essential component of teaching beginning reading. This prerequisite for beginning reading usually requires one on one instruction.
Reading is a wonderful means of enhancing listening comprehension skills, vocabulary and use of language. One can also promote reading comprehension through discussion and questions. As children become familiar with stories they learn are able to practice important language comprehension skills such as retelling stories and recalling details. Eventually they are able to answer more complex questions regarding these stories. Reading introduces children to the basic story elements and terms that help to provide structure. This includes being able to predict and understand story elements such as causal relationships and temporal sequences in stories (first, next, and last). Reading helps to stimulate vocabulary development through pictures, as well as by explaining unfamiliar words. Ongoing reading uses and teaches vocabulary words in various contexts.
Early readers are more advanced at other skills, since language and reading affects learning in all the other subjects. Literature exposes children to a world of new concepts, knowledge, and values regarding almost any topic. Books contain a wealth of information. Enthusiastic readers are well informed throughout their entire lives. Since what one can achieve later on, is determined by the building blocks, laid in the early years, Success by Six explains, “By promoting literary skills when exceptionally young, the child is more likely to do well in school, and succeed in adult life”.
Reading to children early and regularly develops their ability to concentrate and relax. A further benefit of reading is that the bonding process between care giver and child is enhanced through reading out loud to children. Youngsters love books. They delight in the brightness of the pictures as well as the humor and intrigue of the plot. The rhythm of the text, the predictability of the same book read over and over again, and the presence of a loving adult during this special time together soothes the child.
Nurturing literacy at a young age is easier than many may think. The best time to start reading to a child is the day it is born. Even toddlers can retain the letters sounds by associating them with pictures beginning with these sounds. Since ninety percent of the information we acquire is through our vision, we may also tap into youngsters astounding capability for learning symbolic representation of language (words), through the use of picture books.
Predictable, repetitive books, soft cloth books, and bath books are excellent for encouraging and instructing even the youngest of readers. Among the many wonderful baby books to choose from are board books. These books are made with heavy cardboard pages to withstand heavy wear and tear. Plastic books can be chewed and drooled on, and even go into the bath tub. Parents and caregivers can assist in instructing reading by having little ones follow along as they read. Word recognition can be encouraged by pointing to the words as they are slowly enunciated.
Reading like any other skill is modeled by the significant adults in the child’s life. Robert Munch, a famous Canadian children’s author quotes, “Children learn from adults. If you don’t read for fun why should your child?” Reading to children encourages care and respect of books through modeling, and fosters a solid interest it. Reading and story time can be used to promote quiet quality time and bonding between parents and youngsters which also encourages these little ones to acquire a keen love for it. Reading is an exciting activity for youngsters, and researchers have determined that they develop a reading and learning attitude early in life. So reading should be a pleasant and gratifying experience for all early learners.