Literacy in children

I recall vividly feeling a surge of pride when my little girl could read the "The Billy Goat Gruffs". She was not ven three then. As I reflect back, I think her ability to read that 'abridged' version of the book stemmed from repeated reinforcement of the book. In this information age, however, many parents feel that it is never too young to start their precious ones to read.

So what can parents do to help their children read? The following tips apply to emergent readers - those that are in our context, are around three to four years. (or even younger if you feel you child is ready) ;)

Hard as it is to believe, one of the recommended ways is to avoid books! According to some sources, it may be a mistake to teach a child to read with a book. Let me explain - proponents of this idea advocate that a child that learns to read using a book would take the easy way out and memorise the words - like my little girl did. They elaborated that this may lead to a child 'guessing' words that she has not memorise. If the 'problem' is not rectified by the time the child is 6 or 7, the child may not have much confidence to continue reading.

TIP 2 - "Contextualise" the Phonemes: Get your child to be familiar with the 43 phonemes we use. Phonemes are the little sounds that make up each word. They are listed in any dictionary. The challenge is :- Phonemes are non-physical, abstract objects and very hard for your child to remember. So what we do is create strong visual characters to represent each one. For instance, for the sounds of the letter A we have the ants in pink pants, the ape in a cape and the ark in the park. Those are things your child can visualise and so remember. Our memories work mainly with visual images. Try this song " Ants on the apple, A ..A..A.." (A denotes the sound of A), Balls are bouncing B..B..B..

TIP 3 - Tell you kids that you are playing a game of avoiding the books. So what else can you do?Try these games, that work very well for us: Build-A-Word. Take 6 plastic letters including 2 vowels. Revise the main sound of each one. Then say a simple 3 letter word that your child can built with these letters, like bed, dog, fat or mop.Select-A-Word. On a piece of paper, write three similar words, like hot, hat, pat. Read one of them out loud and ask your child to select which word it is. Nonsense Words. Using your plastic letters again, write a nonsense word, like leb, kib, teg, vod. Ask your child to try to read it.

TIP 4 - Less is More: Never do more than 10-15 minutes of reading practice in one go. That is the most your child can do without losing concentration. Struggling on is counter-productive.

The bottom line is to make it interesting for the child and avoid making it a chore because once the interest is reduced, the battle becomes even more uphill...

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