“Reading is the process of getting meaning from print. It doesn’t begin with or depend on knowing the alphabet or knowing the ‘sounds’. It is all about making sense.” So writes Barry Dwyer, former teacher, lecturer, consultant and author of “Parents Teachers Partners.” He contends that reading begins at home and that a child’s reading ability is largely dependent on his or her early experiences with books and spoken language within the family circle day by day.
Talking to young children (even babies) is very important as they pick up the sounds and rhythms of spoken language. Nursery rhymes (even though they may have little meaning) and simple songs help children to build up their vocabulary and identify rhyming words which later build into ‘word families’. When family members read books or other written text and use interesting speech, a rich environment is created which supports language learning.
In homes where parents or grandparents enjoy reading aloud to their children and do so from a very early age, children identify reading with pleasure. Reading books and discussing parts of the stories or characters not only builds communication skills but increases comprehension skills and over time improves concentration span. Retelling a story orally and sequencing events in the order that they happened is a great way to prepare for writing about a story.
So how can you get the most out of reading your child a story?
- Let your child help to choose a book to read.
- Find a comfortable place to sit where your child can clearly see all the words and the pictures.
- Talk about the cover, the title and any pictures and ask “What do you think this story will be about?”
- Read with as much expression as you can and slow your pace so the child has time to mentally process the text being read.
- Stop every now and then and ask a question about what is happening or draw attention to an illustration or explain the meaning of a word.
- Use your fingers at times to run under the line being read to show that the print is connected to your words, and for an older child to ‘find the place’.
- Once the book or section of the book is finished, ask one or two questions about the characters or ending e.g. “Why do you think he did that?” or “What might have happened if . . .?”
- Be prepared to read the same book over and over again if the child requests this as language patterns are being consolidated and the child is identifying with the characters or experiences presented in the book.
Dwyer, Barry, 1989, Parents Teachers Partners, Primary English Teaching Association, Rozelle NSW 2039 Australia