Building Literacy in a Young Child
the best thing I can do with my preschool child to make him ready for school?
You can do a lot of simple things to
set him up for success, and they center on making him into a reader. There are
dramatic differences in life outcomes for children who have good attitudes and
abilities about reading, and those who do not. Helping your child become
someone who loves to read, and is good at it, is THE key task of
parenting to help your child wind up in the first group.
But that doesn't mean drilling your
child on phonics, or forcing him or her to try to read. It is highly
inappropriate to try to teach your child to read at a young age. It must be a
natural process, not a forced one. Parents and day care / preschool workers who
trot out worksheets or drill kids on the alphabet are going about it completely
wrong. Moms who want their child to be the first one on the block are asking
for trouble. Resist the temptation to "compete" with neighbors and friends.
Take all pressure off. Let your child set the pace.
Reading shouldn't seem like work. It
should seem like play between a parent and a child. Books should seem like
exciting, wonderful toys that open up whole new worlds of imagination to your
child. Literacy is one of those precious things that, if you go after it, you
probably won't get it, but if you just live your life and rear your child the
best way you know how, and enjoy him or her, you'll look back one day and see
where the roots of your child's excellent literacy really got their start: in
happy hours of play.
The idea is to help your child love
to read, not just view it as a means to an end, to get through school. Btu
there are smart things you can do to improve the chances that your child will
maximize his or her learning capability. Here are some key concepts:
Make your relationship with your
child as warm and loving and attentive as you can. That creates a strong
parent-child attachment. That's a crucial component of a good self-image. A
child who feels secure and good about himself or herself will be better able to
Keep your home clean, orderly, calm
and on a set routine. No matter how much sleep your child is getting, he or she
could probably use more. Use sensible, firm, consistent discipline procedures.
Children love the security and structure of a home like that. It gives them
self-control and prepares them for good classroom behavior. They will enjoy
knowing what the rules are, and following them. They will know right from
wrong, instead of being left to guess. They also will seek out order in their
reading and writing, because that's what they're used to, instead of loud
noises, unpredictable activity, and chaos.
Excellent nutrition is an absolute
must for brain development. Work with your pediatrician on this. Avoid the junk
food syndrome; it hurts your child both physically and emotionally. Stick with
the healthy, wholesome food groups. Give your child whole milk or 2% through
age 6. That helps form the myelin sheath in the nervous system that is
important for smarts.
Talk a lot to your child. Ask
questions and give praise and affirmation. That causes the child's brain and
communication skills to open up and grow. Avoid harsh orders, put-downs,
namecalling, yelling and commands not to do things. Those make a child "shut
Talk face to face with your child.
Your child needs to see your lips form the letters, and your facial expressions
communicate the meaning; that helps with phonemic awareness - matching the
sounds that letters make with the meaning they symbolize.
Nursery rhymes and funny poems are
great. Researchers think children love rhymes because they make order out of
the chaos that the language often seems to be, to a young child.
Play with words when you interact
with your child: jokes, puns and nonsense syllables are helpful.
Start reading aloud to your child in
infancy and keep it up until about eighth grade. The more you talk to your
child, the more your child's brain will grow. Reading aloud builds vocabulary
until about eighth grade, when listening and reading comprehension levels
finally dovetail. Until then, the best way to learn new words is to hear them.
Limit TV to an hour a day.
Ask your child's teachers to
increase time spent reading aloud to the children, and having silent reading
periods. The more time is invested in reading, the higher the achievement on
down the road.
Homework: See Jim Trelease's The Read Aloud Handbook, and his