How to raise a reader

2011-04-21 00:00

WE all want our children to succeed and do well at school. However, many people seem to be under a misconception that when children turn six and start school that they are suddenly endowed with some mysterious ability, by their superhuman teacher, to suddenly be able to read.

Parents then wonder why one child, who seems no smarter than their child, seems to begin reading overnight and is flying through the readers. These children seem to be naturally gifted. If we take a closer look at these top reading children you’ll often find that they have simply had a greater input from an early age. They have developed all their pre-reading skills and are now ready to jump right into reading. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the child who has sat in front of the television or walked the streets for the past six years, with no adult input or stimulation, and now, as they enter the Grade 1 classroom they are in fact just beginning their prereading journey. This results in them not yet being ready to learn to read and so they fall behind.

Parents often feel intimidated by the concept of introducing prereading skills to their children. However, they are in fact in the best position to introduce these to their children. This is simply because they know their own children and can slip these skills into their everyday lives without it having to become an extramural that costs you excessive amounts of time and money.

The development of prereading skills can be divided into three main cate-gories.

• Visual skills — these train a child’s eyes to see, recognise and process what they need to see and ignore what they don’t need to.

• Auditory skills — these train a child’s ears to hear what is really being said and to hone in on what they need to hear.

• General skills — these are other physical and cognitive skills that work together to ensure that a child reaches his or her full potential.

The development of each of these skills is very broad and yet there are a few fundamental activities you can incorporate that will set your child on the right path.

To help develop their visual skills, train your child to stop and really look at things.

This does not mean that we simply point out things around them but that we stop and take time to engage with the world around us. When your child brings you a leaf or a feather, stop what you are doing and take time to look at it. Discuss the colours, how it feels and where they think it came from. Then put it somewhere special so that they can show a relative­ later in the day. This causes them to really take time to look at the object and develop a host of visual skills.

As we help train our children to use their ears and develop their auditory skills we need to learn to talk slowly and thoughtfully. Read stories and poetry to them from birth and bring their attention to sounds around them. Stop and listen to the bird singing, or the truck going past. This trains them to make sense of the sounds around them rather than block them all out.

There are a host of other preschool skills that a child needs to develop but by training their visual and auditory skills to be sharp and attentive we help ensure that they are in fact school ready.

• Joanne Madgwick is a parenting and educational consultant. Find out more about her at www.susa-parentcenter. com

Related article: Why do you read?

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