Previous Executive Director of Pedagogy, Tina oversees Reggio Emilia (Asia) and a range of professional development initiatives. Tina has been an active contributor to popular and academic publications, in Canada and Asia, on a range of behavioral and education issues for the past 10 years. She was previously Senior Lecturer for Middlesex University London and Open University Hong Kong in teacher qualification granting programmes including their Honours B.A. in Early Childhood Studies – the only bachelor’s degree in education from a foreign institution fully-accredited in Hong Kong. She is also a member of the Ontario College of Teachers in Canada and The National College of Teaching and Leadership in the U.K.
Reading is a passion and an ability that is developed over a lifetime - it begins at birth and carry on throughout our lives. Of course, however it doesn’t mean 'start teaching children to read at birth'; learning to read or decode text is only one aspect of learning to read. Children need to become captivated by the speech used in storytelling and eventually, as they become more word-oriented, they learn to read and decode text. This process of capturing their interest is the first step.
In this article, we provide some ways in which will help inspire early literacy; these tips can guide you in helping your child enjoy reading and how to make it a meaningful experience.
Be their role model
The most important thing children need to acquire is a love of reading. If children love books and are regularly being read to, they will become avid readers; it is simply a natural extension of the process. Enjoying books naturally leads to interest in text and a desire to read for themselves. The general rule is that parents who enjoy reading have children who enjoy reading too.
Parents who love to read can love to read anything. You do not need to pretend to love the greatest works of literature, nut merely need to be seen reading from time to time; reading anything will do- newspapers, magazines, picture books. All of which can be used to inspire and instill a love of reading in your child.
Consistency is the key
Start reading actively to your child when they are born, and make reading a natural part of their life. Read at least one book a day, daily. Some books can be read repeatedly. Have a variety: some books may have stories, some may just be pictures but ensure they enjoy each and every one. Reading together makes it easy for them to enjoy reading: It should happen in a relaxed environment that usually involves physical contact. When reading, discuss about the book or the ideas it inspires. All these make it easier to nurture their love for reading.
Choosing the right book
Books that are too long can be boring. Books with the wrong types of illustrations may intimidate them. The books you choose are important. Infants like books that can be mouthed and handled without the risk of it being ripped to pieces. Toddlers like books with things and events similar to their everyday experiences like family activities, going to school, cleaning the house, taking the bus, riding a train, going to restaurants and going to the mall. They like animals, hence stories about and are associated with animals are usually appealing. Preschoolers like books that include fantasy and imagination; princesses and superheroes are popular among preschoolers. All children like stories about families going about their daily routines. Children who are attending school will already develop a sense of humor and therefore like funny or silly books at times.
There are conventions to reading that requires learning, it is therefore essential to introduce those ideas from an early age. Turn the book upside down and ask your child “Is this is the right way?” Move your fingers across the text as you read. Point out elements in the illustrations that associate with the text.
Books have authors and illustrators - they are creative works of art and it helps to point out the names of the author and illustrator. Talk about the cover and speculate what the book may be about. Ask questions that trigger their imagination:, “Do you think the story will be funny or scary?”
Point out sight words
Phonics is a useful way to learn new words, and most of the time we sight read. Our brains are excellent at isolating patterns, often it is that patterning of text and the shape of the words that spurs us to read. This ability develops over the years of being exposed to text. As your children grow, so will their interest in text. Start by pointing out letters which appear throughout the text, especially at the beginning of the word. As they progress, begin to show them common words which appear throughout the book. Learning to identify key words puts them concretely on the road to reading.
As your child begins to decode text and read sight words, it is essential to take turns reading, you can read one line and they read the next. You can also alternate between reading a few words and then a few lines. This role-swapping process encourages them to read along with you and allows them to take pride in showing you what they have learnt.
Use grammar and punctuation
Grammar and punctuation can be a challenge to learn as they are indistinctly expressed in speech. When you read aloud, emphasise on the use of punctuation - pause at commas, take a deep breath at each full stop and tweak your voice for text wrapped in quotations. Punctuation marks are like road signs, they tell us how the story goes - and are only really learned by hearing them being used in a sentence. Punctuation translates spoken words into written text. It sets cadence, rhythm and mood for the text.
Reading should be a lifelong journey
Never stop reading. When children first learn to read, they will take interest in picture books for their own reading; but as they get older and their attention span increases, they will sway their interest towards books with longer blocks of text and more complex ideas. It is helpful to have books that can be read aloud to the whole family - it is a traditional and effective way to sit together whilst listening to a book being read aloud. It is enjoyable for all ages and can make for some great quality time together.
No matter how old your child is, it is never too early or too late to start building a love for reading.