Raising an eager reader and writer is not as difficult as one thinks. The trick is to start early and make the process a fun and exciting one. Better yet, create it as a bonding moment between you and your child. Nothing beats a great time squirming together with your child over a great read or creating that mystery story!
Here are some secrets to getting it all started!
1) Pick up that book!
Start by becoming a bookworm yourself. You will be surprised at how quick the children pick up the habit of reading just by wanting to be like daddy and mummy. Get the children interested in print by sharing a comic strip with them or an interesting advertisement that you have noticed in the magazine this week. Talking to them about what is being read about allows them to see the connection between communication and print. More importantly, it builds understanding from learning to read to reading to learn.
2) Making, creating, processing
Get children to start appreciating the value of reading and writing by surrounding them with things that they can have fun working on and in the process, enjoy the fun of decoding and creating.
Colouring books, pen and paper, writing and craft materials are great to start with. Making and getting their hands working works on comprehension and problem-solving skills, skills that are important for meaning-making to take place. Start by making the reading and writing process something that is part of recreation and day-to-day activities.
3) Make reading fun, fun, fun
Animate, sing, play with puppets. The literacy process should be inductive and amusing. It’s a great time for you to bond with your child and spend meaningful time together laughing and creating too. Write the lyrics of the songs that you are singing to and paste them on the fridge door. Encourage wriggles and squiggles as they are the beginning of writing.
4) Let’s play a game together
Constantly make the link between ‘why read and why write’ explicit and simple for the child to find confidence and interest to do it. Visited the zoo recently? Find pictures of the animals you saw and spell their names together by tracing out the letters on paper. When children can see that reading and writing are ways to understand the world around them and respond, it will be much easier for them to move into meaning-making with print.
5) Why and Why not?
I love to get my children to draw what they like and then explain what they have drawn to me. After that, they would pick up a letter, word or sentence that they would like to learn how to read or write about. I would then write it out to them. For the rest of the week, we will go back to what we have written and reinforce the shared word(s). Familiarity is built from exposure and simple exercises like this make children’s baby steps to reading and writing stress-free. Besides, it is really fun to hear what they have to say about the words they want to learn about. Try it!
6) Look around and discover
Children learn best when there is meaning to what is being shared with them. Immerse them into role play and pretend games build up vocabulary and content knowledge that is a precedent to making print. Learning about colours? Play with paint. What is sand? Bring them to the beach and take an evening stroll by the breakwaters to tickle their senses.
7) In time it will come
Just as we celebrate when our little ones utter their first word, do not fret when they are not starting the reading or writing process as yet. In time and with the right encouragement, it will come forth. As parents, other than the knowledge, we must provide the patience and belief that our little ones are capable of being the next great orator or writer. Take those baby steps with them and when the time comes for them to take that giant leap into the world of words, support and excite them by surrounding them in print-rich environments like the library or the bookshops.
Born and educated in Singapore, she holds a Master Degree in Education (NTU/NIE), Bachelor Degree in Arts (NTU), Diploma in Marketing – Top student for the year 2000 (Chartered Institute of Marketing). Esther has more than 10 years of teaching experience and has taught widely in both Secondary and Primary schools. She was also involved in curriculum planning and development work for the primary unit at MOE for several years. Esther has also conducted workshops and talks for educators, locally and overseas. Esther is also a mother of three children.
This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine.
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