There are several skills that need to be practiced to master reading. Parents are ideally placed to help their children to gain these skills and be able to see, recognize and understand.
- New born babies can see but they tend to be able to focus between 8 and 15 inches, which is about the distance of their mothers face when breast feeding. Over the next few months they ability to focus on more distance objects grows. You can help by giving them interesting things to look at such as a mobile.
- The first skill in learning to read is being able to recognize the different shapes which letters are built from (lines curves dots etc). It is known from experiments that kittens who are denied the opportunity to see certain patterns, for example diagonal lines, during a critical period of their development can not see these patterns once the block is removed and never develop the ability to see them. You can help by surrounding your baby or toddler an environment rich in different types of shapes and symbols (horizontal, diagonal, vertical lines, circles squares). Young children’s eyes are not so good at focusing so larger patterns are better (around 2 to 4 inches).
- As babies grow they learn to recognize distinct objects and as they learn to speak they learn to name them. Cat, dog, mama, dada, car, tractor. They also learn to recognize pictures of objects and there are many books with these pictures in. However leaving a toddler in a room with a book and saying “Get on with it I want you to be finished by the time I get back” is not likely to be very effective. Interaction with a parent turns learning into a fun game.
Children learn to recognize the shapes of different letters and associate them with sounds. Sometimes as individual letters or in groups, such as the familiar short words such as cat dog ball sun. The larger the font the better, at least 72pt.
Many books for young children feature pictures of objects and their names so children can learn by association to recognize the just the names. Talking and reading to children helps strengthen these associations.
Everyone loves a story and reading to your children associate books reading with stories and entertainment. Children will by now have started to make their mark on things including drawing painting and writing numbers letters and words which ties in with reading. We don’t just read what other people have written we can read what we have written and write for other people to read.
In addition to continuing to read to your child listen to them read to you. Your presence helps keep their attention focused on what they are doing. You can help them pronounce words that they struggle with and ensure that they are not missing words or lines.
Talk about the stories and the characters in the stories how did people feel? Why did they do the things they did? What happened to them before the story started to make them behave the way they did? What happens after the story ends?
So reading ties in with thinking and creating new scenes and will feed back into writing.
An understanding of what the characters have experienced and are feeling gives children tools to portray the words spoken by different characters in different ways, a gateway to acting.
Children should be able to answer questions about the stories. At first this may just be repeating words or sentences verbatim from the story. As they grow they should be able to talk about the story, explain the actions and motivation in different words to those used in the story.
So the process of reading, thinking and then describing shows they have been able to absorb the information in the story, understand it think about it and explain it at a deeper level than just repeating the text.