Encouraging a Positive View of Reading & Writing
Nancy F. Browing
In many ways, your child is already both a reader and a writer. When your preschooler turns the pages, looking at a book, he is a reader, and when he can tell you, "That's McDonald's," because he knows the symbol of the golden arches, he is also a reader. Your child is a writer when she tells a story for you to write down, or when she makes marks or letters on paper to tell her own story.
To help your child see himself as a reader and writer from the start, involve him with books at an early age: read to your infant from birth, look at picture books with your child and provide books made of plastic and cardboard for your baby to manipulate. As your child gets older, provide a variety of books for him to look at by himself and with others.
Importance of a Positive View of Reading and Writing
Most activities that will help your preschooler to love both reading and writing do not require any fancy materials or programs. Instead, you need some books, pencils and paper, and some time to share reading and writing experiences with your child. It is more important to foster a positive view of reading and writing as enjoyable and useful activities, than to have your youngster work at mastering a skill like recognizing and writing the letters of the alphabet.
Importance of Discovering Meaning
Researchers have found that reading is learned best through actual reading and that writing is learned best through actual writing, because reading and writing are complex processes that involve much more than the mastery of specific skills. Because the goal of reading is to create meaning, it is possible for a child to master many "reading skills" such as phonics (recognizing the sounds of the letters) and word recognition (memorizing words by sight) but still not work toward understanding the meaning of what she is reading.
As a preschooler, if your child will learn how to work toward meaning by knowing that an author tells a story, by predicting what might happen next, and by doing the other activities suggested in this book, she will be able to acquire the necessary "reading skills" as she searches for meaning. For example, your child may be able to read a difficult word like "elephant" if she has an interest in elephants, or if she has just taken a trip to the zoo and wants to write or dictate a story about elephants. She need not know the name of each of the letters in "elephant" for that word to have meaning for her.
Children also learn reading by writing. Your preschooler can "write" stories by telling them to you and having you write them down. When she looks at this writing and then retells her story, she is reading because she is making the symbols mean something. Encourage your child to write her own stories too, even if her marks do not resemble the traditional alphabet, or if she uses her own "invented" spelling.
Try to provide experiences for your child that could be used as a basis for writing. After a picnic in the park, encourage him to write about what happened. You might talk about the trip first and suggest that your child draw a picture. Your preschooler could "write" a letter to grandma about the trip, or dictate a letter for you to write.
Print is Everywhere
Reading encompasses much more than books print is everywhere. Explore traffic signs, phone books, advertisements, and food boxes with your preschooler. Read to your child daily, talk with your child frequently, and let him know that reading is important to you. If you enjoy reading and keep books, magazines and newspapers available, you will serve as a model which will be likely to influence your youngster's future behavior.
Copyright Betty Farber 1997. All rights reserved.
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