Excerpt from Parents' & Teachers' Guide to Helping Young Children Learn by Betty Farber, M.Ed, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Parents' & Teachers' Guide to Helping Young Children Learn

Creative Ideas from 35 Respected Experts

by Betty Farber, M.Ed

Parents' & Teachers' Guide to Helping Young Children Learn
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    May 1998, 364 pages

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Print Excerpt

Children Who Love to Read
Laura Daigen-Ayala

Sitting on the couch, four-year-old Bryan was absorbed in his picture book. Suddenly he ran to his father, book in hand, and asked thoughtfully, "How do you do those words?" "What words, Bryan?" his father asked. "You know, the ones you read me in my books!" Bryan had just jumped headlong into the process of discovery that would lead him to reading.

Parents are often confronted with ads for computer software, videos, and workbooks suggesting that certain "pre-reading" activities are necessary in order for children to become good readers. However, real reading readiness is accomplished quite simply; through exposure to language and print in all their forms.

Think of reading as a process that is learned just like speaking. When babies babble and coo, we don't call them "pre-speakers," or require them to master specific pre-speaking skills. Quite the contrary, as soon as we hear something that sounds like a real word, we offer encouragement and praise, asserting that, "She's talking!"

If workbooks are not useful activities for reading readiness, how then are parents to help with the reading process? First, find encouragement in the knowledge that today many schools are trying to imitate what you as parents do by reading their favorite stories to students over and over, using big books (marketed as "Big Books") with large print so that the class can see the words being read to them. The aim is for children to come to recognize the words of the story, just as they often do while sitting in your lap hearing a favorite book.

Just by reading to your child you're taking the single most important step toward instilling in her a love of reading. And by all means, reread that story for the thousandth time if your child requests it. There's something in that book that she needs to hear again and again.



How parents can help preschoolers in the reading process

  • One technique you can use to help draw your child's attention to the print is occasionally to point to the words as you read. This will help your child realize that the symbols you're pointing to are the words you are saying. It will also show your child that we read from left to right. Avoid overdoing this however. Love of the story and its illustrations are most important.
  • From time to time, as you read aloud, pause before the last word of a line, and allow your child to complete the phrase. If the word he fills in is not the one on the page, let it go without correcting him. Your child is using the story line, his memory, and/or his ability to predict in order to find the meaning. That's what reading is all about.
  • To encourage memorization and prediction, include in your read-aloud collection: 1) books with rhymes and repetition such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, books of poetry, and 2) cumulative stories (stories that repeat phrases, adding new lines as the story grows) such as The House That Jack Built. When your child has memorized a book, this is a great step toward independent reading. Applaud your reader for this accomplishment, and let him read his book to someone. Be sure not to preface his performance with, "He's only memorized it." The words your child has memorized will become his first reading words as he begins to associate the symbols on the page with the words that have become important to him for their meaning.
  • To help your preschooler discover that those squiggles on the page are just language written down, begin by writing down your child's own words. Not only does this lend importance to your child's thoughts and ideas, strengthening his developing self-image, it also makes it possible for you, your child, and others to read back these words later. Soon your youngster will come to understand the value and usefulness of print. You can have him dictate letters to friends and relatives, stories, songs, or poems, or the titles for his art work.

    Copyright Betty Farber 1997. All rights reserved.

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