Why does your tongue stick out when you are trying to thread a needle?
For most of us, when we are doing a job with our hands that requires fine motor control, such as threading a needle, our tongues will stick out involuntarily as we concentrate on the task at hand.It is as if our brain is trying to make our tongue make a word out of what we are doing!
Linguists realize that the hand, language and the brain are connected in many and mysterious ways.The work of the hand builds neural pathways in the brain.Research has shown that children remember the name of an object better if they see and touch the object, than if they had only seen it.
We know that children from birth to six are in a sensitive or critical period of language development.This is the time in human development when we acquire language almost effortlessly.At this age, no one needs to teach us to talk.
Language development in all languages, even American Sign Language, follows predictable patterns of acquisition.We can expect the first word from a baby around twelve months.Around age two, we’ll see a child “explode” into language.The child will know hundreds of nouns along with prepositions, verbs and adjectives.Around two-and-a-half, the child is able to express him or herself with proper grammar, using all parts of speech, and conjugation of the verb.By age four-and-a-half, a child can speak in complex sentences with mostly correct grammar and syntax.
Research shows that those people who acquire a second language before the age of seven will have speech, grammar and syntax skills as though they were a native speaker, and do so effortlessly.After the age of seven, it requires more time, practice and conscious effort to acquire a second language and speak like a native.
How does the hand help early language acquisition?Being aware of the hands’ connection to the brain and language development, and knowing that the sensitive period for language acquisition ends by age seven, you need to keep your children’s hands busy with appropriate and enriching activities.
Many children spend too much time in front of the television, video games, or computer, involved in activities that require minimal hand involvement.As parents you might say, “These activities on the television and computer aren’t all bad.There are educational games.”And you would be right.But developmentally, you would be wasting precious time for your children, because they could be involved in activities that better serve their potential as human beings.
Some families have eliminated television, computer and video games for their children under the age of six.A more realistic goal may be to limit total machine time to two hours or less per day, even on the weekends.But what will you do to keep those little hands busy?
Set up an activity center for your children with activities that will encourage their hand and brain development.Set up shelves with six to ten activities attractively presented in baskets or on trays.You can rotate these activities out as you feel necessary.Have your child choose an activity, show them how to use it correctly, neatly and safely, then show them how to put it away properly when they have completed the activity.If you have children under the age of three, some of the following activities may present a choking hazard.Two excellent booksfor more activities are Montessori Play and Learn by Leslie Britton and MontessoriRead and Write by Lynne Lawrence.
ActivityCenter Suggestions for Three to Six-Year-Olds
Transfer activity: sort a collection of buttons by color, shape or size into an egg carton or muffin tin.
Drawing/Writing: Cup with colored pencils, markers, or crayons and half sheets of paper.
Beading Lesson:Long shoestring, large wooden beads or empty spools of thread.
Puzzles:Start with knobbed wooden puzzles and work up to 100-piece puzzles
WoodenBuilding Blocks:Keep in basket with placemat or small rug to define workspace.
Duplo blocks:Keep in small basket with placemat to help define building spot.
Keep a child-sized broom and dustpan available for cleaning activities.
Keep your child’s hands busy with appropriate work.Enrich the environment language by reading out loud and singing.Then watch your child’s verbal skills blossom.
Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that the road to reading for your child will begin in kindergarten.I’ve had parents tell me, “Oh, I’m too busy. I’ll just let my child learn to read in first grade.”Unfortunately, for many children important skills for reading are not developed at the time of their lives when it is the easiest, before kindergarten.
The road to reading begins at birth, not at kindergarten or first grade.Reading is being able to understand written language.Written language is based entirely on the spoken word.So when I say reading begins at birth, I mean that as we hear our first word, we begin the road to reading.
Some of us travel the road to reading, and arrive on time. Some of us have problems, and have to sit on the roadside waiting for help.Some have a bumpy ride, or arrive late.Our children can all have an easy trip, if we, as parents, are aware of how spoken vocabulary is the vehicle in which we travel to arrive at reading.
Our spoken vocabulary helps create two critical reading skills.At the one level, our spoken vocabulary creates our reading vocabulary. To help our children, we need to help them acquire as large a vocabulary as possible and the ability hear the sounds within words.At another level, spoken language creates awareness that words are made of individual sounds or phonemes.Fortunately for us, children are natural language learners from birth to age six, so acquiring these two skills of a large spoken vocabulary and sound awareness can be easy.
Between birth and the age of six, your child is in a sensitive period for language development.By age three, the structure of spoken language is fully developed in your child’s brain.Your three-year-old should be able to clearly speak his native language, or in the case of multi-lingual families, whatever languages are used at home.He should be able to speak full sentences with correct syntax or sentence structure.For example,he should say “I am going to the store” and not “Me go store” or some variation.
Many children at age three cannot speak clearly, because of obstacles to language development with childhood illnesses such as ear infections, an environment that is language deprived, and unknown physical challenges with sight, hearing and muscle tone.One of my three-year-old student’s speech blossomed after she got glasses.Her doctor said she hadn’t seen well enough to see lips moving.She hadn’t known how to move her lips and mouth to form many sounds.
Around age three, obstacles blocking normal language development for your child become more obvious.At this time parents and teachers need to be observant and remove obstacles.Then enrich your child’s language and learning environment with specific skill activities.After age six, language development is more difficult for the child and becomes “therapy’ instead of “fun” enrichment activities.
Ninety percent of our spoken vocabulary is in place by age six.In a thirty year research project, participants with the largest vocabulary also rated themselves as the happiest.It seems true that people who can expressed themselves effectively with a large selection of words would be happy.It stands to reason, then, that any assistance you can give your children in increasing their vocabulary and spoken language skills is only going to make them happier people.Your vocabulary and happiness may benefit too.
You can help your child in two important and simple ways.The first help is to speak clearly and correctly, using full sentences.How many of us say “I’m gonna” instead of “I’m going to”?If we don’t say the “ing” in a word, how can we expect our child to be able to say it and eventually read it?The second help is to use as many different precise words as you can with your child.Instead of just saying “red bird”, use the word “cardinal”.To describe a tree, be more specific and say “walnut”, “oak” or “maple”.Increase your child’s vocabulary by describing something two ways, such “I am happy.I am elated.This is little.It is miniscule.”Give your child the correct names of things, and both of your vocabularies will grow.There are wonderful visual dictionaries that give precise language of hundreds of things, like the names of the parts of an airplane.You’ll be amazed at how hungry your child is for language.
Around age two-and-a-half to three, help your child become aware that words are made up of individual sounds.This skill is called phonemic awareness. Phonemic comes from the word “phonics” which means sounds. When you help your child become aware of the individual sounds in words, you are helping them develop a very important skill for reading success.Remember, children have an innate ability for language development, and so phonemic awareness can be created in such an easy way, that you could even call it “child’s play”.No teaching required, just fun and games.
One of the activities, or games, that you can do with your child is the “I Spy Game”.This is played very much like the game you used to play as a childwhere you said “I spy something green.”To help create phonemic awareness, you are going instead to say “ I spy something that begins with the “b” sound”
The challenge is to know how to make the “b” sound. Here’s how.The letter name for “b” is pronounced “bee”.The sound of “b” is more like “buh”.Trying saying the word “ball” and stopping yourself after you get the “b” sound out.The “uh” part of “buh” is very, very soft and if you can say it without any “uh” sound, that is even better.
The variations of the I Spy game are endless and you can play it on the spur of the moment.For this reason it is a great car and restaurant game.You can play with parts of the body, clothing, names, things in a room, etc.Just remember that the object of the game is to help your child learn to hear individual sounds in words.He can’t win or lose!He can only learn phonemic awareness.
To play the game, you say, “I spy something that begins with the “n” sound.”.Your child says “Tree!”. Instead of saying, No, you’re wrong.”, kindly say, tree starts with a “t” sound.I’m thinking of something on your face that begins with a “n”.You can even point to your nose!If your child still doesn’t say the word nose, just point to your nose and say, “I was thinking of nose.”Remember the object is to create awareness of sounds in a fun way that assures success.
Play the “I Spy Game” every day.As your child progresses, make the game more challenging by doing ending sounds.“I spy something that ends with a “t”.”Yes, it’s cat”.Internal sounds are the most difficult to hear so do them last.“I spy something with a “o” sound”.“Yes, I was thinking of “dog”. You will be amazed how quickly your child can hear the different sounds of our language.
Your child will take this skill of phonemic awareness along with letter/sound recognition and become a successful reader.
Here is a list of words whose initial sounds will help you make the sounds of each letter.Happy Parenting!
Kids Talkis a column dealing with early childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt.Ms. Schmidt is founder of a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from LoyolaCollege in Maryland. She has over twenty years experience working with young children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale.She is also creator of a video based reading series for children ages , The Shining Light Reading Series.Contact her via e-mail at email@example.com.
“Don’t teach your children their abc’s,”I tell shocked parents of three-year-olds.“They’ll learn their abc’s later, but to be wonderful readers they need to learn something else first.”
Most of us learned the letter names, as we sang our “abc’s” (aye-bee-sees).To learn to read faster and more efficiently, help your children learn the a-buh-cuh’s or the sounds the letters represent.
The skills of letter recognition and phonemic awareness (hearing the individual sounds in words) work hand in hand and will develop together.The sounds may be introduced first, through games like I Spy and songs.(See the article Reading Begins at Birth for more information.)To begin the work of letter recognition with a three-year-old, I introduce a letter a week.For the five year old, I introduce a letter a day, so that we can get through the entire alphabet in about a month.When your child has letter and sound recognition of about fifteen letters, you can then begin word-building games, and then the road to reading really begins to pick up speed.
Introduce lower case letters first to you child.The reason for this is simply that it makes your child’s learning easier.If you introduce both lower and upper case alphabets at the same time,there will be fifty-two symbols to recognize instead of twenty-six.Also, over 95 percent of all printed matter is in lower case writing.Introduce the capital letters to your child after they have mastered the lower case alphabet with a simple matching game.More often than not, children will “discover” the capital letters on their own, and the sounds they represent.Self-discovery makes learning more fun and rewarding.
To introduce the letters and their sounds to your child, make a set of cards with your child.Depending on the age of your child, you may want to make one a week or one a day or perhaps the whole set in a morning!I’ve done it all!This set of cards will be fun to make and use because it will be your child’s own work of art.You don’t have to start in ABC order either.Start with the letters in a child’s name or the first initials of family members--whatever seems to be of interest to your child.Below is a description of this activity.
Purpose:To introduce the child to all the letter sounds of the alphabet
Materials:1. Twenty-six 5x7 index cards or other heavy weight paper
2.Various materials to glue onto each letter card, names of which begin with a corresponding letter, such as m – macaroni, b –beans, etc.These can also be stickers, magazine pictures, etc.
5.Basket to store cards
On each card draw a dark outline of a lowercase letter.Then glue on the corresponding materials.
Set aside to dry.When dry, display in the basket.
See Photo Illustration Above
For the next day, or week, do letter and sound recognition activities for that letter.Take the letter “m”, for example:
1.Eat things that start with the letter m, milk, macaroni, marshmallows, mashed potatoes, meatloaf, etc.
2.Go on a “m” hunt in your house, yard or neighborhood.
3.Make a “‘m” poster or cards with cutouts from a magazine.
4.Dance like a monkey while holding the letter “m”.
5.Moo like a cow. Meow like a cat.Etc.
6.Make a necklace with the letter.
7.Have your child use his index and middle fingers to trace over the 3-D alphabet card.
8.Use salt dough to make the letters.
9.Write the letters with chalk on the sidewalk, or patio, or driveway.
Let your child help find materials to correspond to their letters.Here are some ideas:
a-apple seeds, ant, apple or alligator stickers
b-beans, buttons, beads
c-cotton balls, corn seed, colored comics, cloth
d-dots from a hole punch, dirt (only for the adventurous!)
f-feathers, flag stickers
g-glitter, gauze, gift wrap
i-igloo, iguana stickers or drawings
j-jelly beans, old jewelry
k-keys, pictures of kiwis
l-lace, lollipop wrappers
o-pictures of otter or octopus
p-peanuts, popsicle sticks
r-rubber bands, rice
s-sand, salt, string
u-umbrella stickers or pictures
w-wallpaper, watermelon seeds
x-I usually make little exit signs to glue on
z-zippers (from old clothes)
Keep these letters handy and review them everyday as your collection grows.
“It’s just a miracle!” I’ve heard parents exclaim.“Our son is five years old and he’s reading.”
When children begin to read, it does seem miraculous.Remember when your child began to talk?It seemed as if one day she couldn’t say a word and the next day she could.Then you could never get her to stop.It is the same with reading.It seems to appear out of nowhere, but in actuality the very first step to reading begins the moment we hear our first word.At its simplest, reading is just understanding the written thoughts of another human being.All that understanding begins with the first word we hear.Words have meaning and we read for meaning and understanding.
Learning to read is a process that begins a long time before your child enters kindergarten.Because reading and writing are based upon spoken language, you want to make sure your child has a language rich environment from birth.You need to be reading out loud to your child.You need to be singing to and with your children.You need to be speaking clearly and directly to your child so he can see your face to see how words are formed.You need to help your child become aware that words are made up of individual sounds.This skill is called phonemic awareness.We need to help them know that letters represent sounds, a skill that is called letter/sound recognition.
After your child acquires the two basic skills for reading, phonemic awareness and letter/sound recognition, you will see a “burst” into reading, much like the “burst” into speech. There will be that magical day when your child discovers he can read.He will begin by reading one word at a time.You’ll hear exclamations from the backseat of the car, “Dad! Did you know that red sign says, “STOP”?”
At this first level of reading you need to offer vocabulary cards that have a picture and just one word, for example, a picture of an alligator and the word beneath it.These cards will give a visual clue to your child, and help them build word recognition.These types of cards are available in the toy section of most stores.You can also make your own cards with your child using 3x5 index cards and using magazine cut outs, stickers, or drawings for the pictures.
At first the child may “sound” out the words, but through repetition, the eye and brain begin to remember a word at a time, so that the child can see the word “alligator” and know it and say it without consciously having to sound it out.Through repetition, the child develops a visual memory of a word, which makes reading faster and more enjoyable.
The second level is to read two or three words at a time. Many children when they get to this point want to go straight to books that have too much text for their level of eye control and visual memory.
Beginner readers, since they “know” they can read, want to go straight books they see older readers reading, such as the Harry Potter books.They are heartbroken when they realize they can’t read it.At this moment, they are in danger of becoming discouraged.You must be there for them by continuing to read out loud to them and helping them make books that will help them develop their eye control and visual memory.
Writing and making little books will help develop word recognition, along with left-to-right hand and eye coordination.With your new reader, make little books that have lots of visual clues.
The Hat Book is one of my students’ favorite first books.We draw hats in ten different colors and write the words in print and cursive.We make a booklet using half sheets of copy paper.The pages read: the black hat, the red hat, the pink hat, the brown hat, the gray hat, the purple hat, the orange hat, the white hat, the yellow hat, the blue hat, the green hat.Using the names of colors we get a lot of phonogram practice (sounds made with two or more letters).We have a visual clue of what the words should say, plus we’ve written it ourselves.
See Illustration Above for Hat Book Example
Make lots of little books that your children can create and read. Use bugs, cats, dogs, mugs, bears, alligators, hippopotami, caterpillars…the list goes on and on.
The third level is to create books with five or more words in a complete sentence. You might do a hat book with sentences like these: The black hat is small.The red hat is large.The yellow hat is just right.
After your child develops fluency with one sentence per page, begin to make books with two sentences per page, one underneath the other.
The black hat is small.
It does not fit me.
At this point, your child is ready to start into books that have two or three lines of print per page.Some children may get to this point in a few weeks.For others it may be many months. The important thing is that you keep it fun and successful.
Encourage story writing and book making.Writing, be it creative or copying, is more important to the development of reading skills than having your child read out loud to you.Reading out loud is a dramatic, expressive skill that requires memory and emotional interpretation.Reading for understanding is a receptive language skill, much like understanding what someone is saying to you.Your child needs to develop receptive reading skills and expressive reading skills before you can expect her to use both skills at the same time to read out loud.
To maximize your child’s efforts in reading, have him write instead of read out loud to you.Writing reinforces the receptive skills of reading, as well as the expressive skill of writing.Singing, memorizing poetry and bible verses will help develop your child’s expressive reading skills.At some point he will take these two different skills and use them to be a fluent and expressive reader.
Continue to nourish a love of language in your children by reading out loud every day to your children, through elementary school.At some point, they will volunteer to read the chapter out loud.Serial reading (chapter book reading) ideas can be suggested by your public or school librarian.Jim Trelease’s book, ARead Aloud Handbook, is also a wonderful resource.
The road to reading is a long one, but when you are aware of the developmental needs of your child, it should be a smooth ride with very few bumps.
“Help!My child is ten years old and is reading on a second grade level”.
“My 7th grader is making D’s and F’s.What can I do?”
Over the years, many parents have asked for my help with their children’s academic progress.Time after time, the children who were falling behind in school were poor readers.They also did not have a good understanding of the relationship between sounds and letters.Many ten-year-olds could tell me the sounds of only five of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet.We always did what we had to do…start at the beginning, and develop awareness that words are made out of sounds, that each letter represents a sound, and that words and sentences make sense.
The time frame of when children begin to read lasts about five years. Some children may begin to read as young as four-and-a-half and as late as nine.The important thing is to be sure your child is in a language enriched environment, learning the sounds of the letters and learning to hear the sounds in the words.My experience is that children with minds that are more oriented to mathematical and spatial skills, tend to begin reading later.If the child has been in an encouraging environment, by the time they are twelve, there is usually not a reading skill difference between the early and late reader.If your child is not a fluent reader by age seven, he or she may be encountering some obstacles that need adult assistance.
For many young readers, visual memory has not completely formed on several letters.They will often confuse the following letters:d and b, p,q and g,
r and n,w and m,t and f,i and l, u,h and n.
As you can quickly count, this confusion can involve over half the alphabet.No wonder it is frustrating for them to try and read.No wonder some kids just give up!
In cases of letter confusion, you must go back to the beginning and develop letter/sound recognition, for your young reader is trying to make sense of symbols before he is ready.Work on sound /letter recognition until he can correctly identify sixteen letters with their sounds.Then take the next step of introducing him to one word at a time with the letters he has mastered.
Another obstacle your child might encounter is not being able to read left to right.Some children will start decoding a word from the right or in the middle. Their eye muscles may be weak and need practice in moving left to right.To help your child overcome this obstacle, use one-word vocabulary cards and place a sticker on his left hand to help him to remember to start on the left.Remind him that words make sense, and that each word he tries to read will be a word that is in his spoken vocabulary.
The next obstacle is not having the ability to see the spaces between the words.To someone who is having this difficulty, a sentence looks like one huge, horrible word.Making booklets of three word phrases with a picture clue will help your child begin to see the spaces between the words.(See last week’s article, #4 Steps to Reading.)Encourage your child to place a finger at the end of a word before starting to write the next word, so the spaces become more evident.
Reading from the top of the page, line by line, to the bottom, is another difficulty for the new reader.Many times a young reader’s eye muscles are not developed enough to move left to right and back again to pick up the next line.Making small booklets with two lines of writing per page will help your beginning reader exercise her eyes and develop success with reading.
Difficulty picking out letter patterns is another obstacle.Some young readers will have difficulty seeing phonograms, two or more letters that make a different sound, such as“sh”, “th”, “ch”, “oi”, “oa”, “oo”, and the
vowel-consonant-silent “e” combination as in bike.Making lists of words with these letter combinations will help your reader develop a visual memory of these combinations.Going through the newspaper and looking for certain phonograms is also a fun activity.
There can be many obstacles to reading development, usually due to trying to jump a step developmentally.Every person’s brain develops at a different rate, but in observable developmental patterns.Reading success is dependent on a foundation of phonemic awareness and letter/sound recognition.
Remember, to assure reading success, start at the beginning by introducing each letter and its unique sound.Be aware that your child might encounter developmental obstacles due to their unique brain development and that these obstacles might take some time to overcome.Always encourage your child and keep your home language enriched.These are the keys for reading success.
Six-year-old Michael had his head down on his writing paper, shoulders heaving with sobs.“I can’t do it.It’s too hard.”I knew he was right.It was too hard for him.As a teacher, I know and believe the more children write, the higher their reading level becomes.What would help him start to enjoy writing?
For many children writing becomes a tedious chore accompanied by many tears and gnashing of teeth, for everyone involved.There are several reasons for children’s frustration with writing.One is that the hand is not prepared to take on the task.The muscles in the hand and arm are underdeveloped and lack the fine and gross motor control necessary.A second reason is the inferior quality of paper and writing instruments we give to our children.How can you help?
The fine motor control necessary to form letters on paper is a process that you should start developing indirectly with your children from about age three.There are many exercises you can offer your children in terms of work and play that will build their fine motor skills.Activities such as sorting beans and buttons into an egg carton or muffin tins will help strengthen the muscles and coordination between your child’s thumb and index fingers.Three-year-olds love to clean, and polishing things with small circular motions will help build up the hand and forearm.Using colored pencils instead of crayons or markers for coloring activities will also help build up the hands.Sewing, painting, squeezing sponges, digging in the yard, any activity that keeps the hands busy will build the hand muscles and develop hand-to-eye coordination.
By age four-and-a-half your child should show an interest in writing his or her name.If you have given lots of hand strengthening activities, writing should be successful and fun.Please note that video games and computer activities do not give enough opportunities for the kind of hand and arm activity your child needs to develop.
Even if you have helped your child prepare his hand for writing, many times the tools for writing can create an obstacle and subsequent frustration.Most of the lined paper for young children is of very poor quality.It tears easily if too much pressure is applied while writing, and erasers can rip holes in the paper. Pencil marks can smear easily on low quality paper. The color and texture of the paper can also be uninviting to the child.Try to obtain high quality paper for your child’s writing.Offer half sheets of high quality copy paper and encourage your child to use the front and the back of the paper.
Poor quality writing instruments can also be frustrating to the young writer.Test the quality of the pencils.Many of the leads drag on the paper and require too much pressure to obtain a good mark.Some pencil leads break too easily.Others do not erase well.Crayons are too broad tipped and smear too much for a quality writing experience.Markers do not require much pressure or muscle strength to use, and it is tempting to use them if your child is having difficulty with writing.Markers, though, do not contribute to building up the muscles in your child’s hand like using a pencil.To help keep a pencil in your child’s hand, have colored pencils available for your child to decorate and illustrate their writing.
You can be of great assistance to your child by providing them with lots of activities that require the use of the hand, arm and eye.Provide them with quality writing materials, pencils, papers and erasers, to ensure that their writing efforts are successful.Writing will build readings skills in your child in a strong and powerful way.Prepare your child’s hand with strengthening activities and supply his work environment with quality materials.Then watch frustration turn to smiles.
“What’s this word?” my students ask.“Oh, you know it.” I reply.“No, I don’t.”Then I give them the secret.“What if I told you it started with a capital letter?”
For the beginning reader, we add an unnecessary difficulty to learning the letters and their sounds by introducing fifty-two letters when twenty-six is all we need.Ninety percent of all printed mater is in lower case print.It just makes sense to introduce the lower case letters first.After the child learns all the lower case letters and their unique sounds, it is usually not difficult for them to learn the capital letters.For most children, you can begin to introduce the capital letters after they are reading three word phrases.
Reading success is built on a foundation of two skills:
Being aware that words are made of individual sounds.
Understanding the relationship between letters and sounds.
Reading without understanding these foundational concepts forces the young reader to adopt a coping strategy of symbolizing words, meaning they look at the word and just remember that a certain set of lines means “cat”.The young reader does not then develop the decoding skills of knowing that the three letters in cat make three different sounds.Without this knowledge, reading becomes limited to the number of words you can manage to memorize, and can be visually confusing when trying to memorize the difference between similar looking words such as cat, can, cap, cab, cad, car, etc.
Depending on visual memory for word recognition along with the inability to assign a sound to each letter are the main reasons that the reading level for many adults makes them ”functionally illiterate”.The NationalCenter for Educational Statistics reported in 1997 in the National Adult Literacy Survey that forty to forty-four million adults in the United States were only able to perform the most routine literacy tasks.Adults at this level could usually locate one piece of information in a sports article or locate the expiration date on a driver’s license.They could not locate two pieces of information in a sports article or locate an intersection on a street map.Forty million (40,000,000) adults are unable to read because neither their parents, their teachers nor anybody else made sure that they knew the reading basics.The report also showed that these adults were also in the bottom twenty percent for income.
Assure reading success for your child by introducing only the lower case letters first.With only twenty-six symbols to learn, we double the rate of learning success.Lower-case letters make up 90% of all printed matter.
Learning the letter/sound relationships is also critical for reading success.Make sure your child knows all the letter sounds for the lower case letters before you introduce capital letters.It will be easier for your child to be a successful reader by introducing one alphabet at a time --the lower case alphabet first.
Kitchen Scene:Mom and Dad are getting dinner ready after a busy day.Soccer practice is in 45 minutes.Enter six-year-old with book.
“Mom! Dad!I have to read ten pages out loud to you tonight for homework!”
Mom and Dad look at each other and sigh.
Perhaps you have sat painfully listening to your child painfully read out loud.You also might remember reading circles when you were in elementary school.“But that’s how we learn to read!” you say.“How can we be sure our child is learning to read if we don’t listen to him read?It’s our job as parents.”
Understanding the process of reading can help you feel confident that there is a better way to help your children than to sit and listen to them haltingly and painfully read out loud to you.If your child loves to read out loud and it is not a painful process, that is wonderful for both of you.I still think you will learn something by continuing to read this article.
Reading out loud is an expressive dramatic skill that requires the use of many skills simultaneously.To read out loud fluently, you have to take in a lot of printed matter at one time, mentally interpret the meaning and emotion, and then express it verbally.That’s a lot for six-year-old or a sixty-year-old.
Research has shown that the difference in the time for the brain to process the printed word in a fluent and non-fluent reader is 1/100th of a second.Just because the brain is processing 1/100 second slower, reading becomes halting and exhausting.It doesn’t have to be that way.Encourage your child to develop expressive language through singing, memorization of poems and bible verses, plays, etc.Work on the receptive and decoding skills needed by encouraging writing.At some point the two skills will overlap, and your child will become a wonderful expressive reader, painlessly.
Reading for meaning and understanding is a receptive language skill.Most of us have a larger “listening” and “reading” vocabulary than we have a “spoken” vocabulary.As we listen and read, we pick up contextual clues that take practice and time to help us interpret the meaning.You’ve probably had the experience of reading something or listening to a speech and feeling no difficulty in understanding what was being said.The challenge comes when someone then asks you to say it in your own words.That is the difference between receptive and expressive reading skills.
There are two activities you can do to solve the read-aloud blues; encourage writing and creating meaningful reading experiences.
The first thing you can do instead of having your child read out loud, is to encourage him or her to write every day.This writing can be a letter to family, copying from their reading book, copying a poem, their own writing, bible verses, etc.Keep them writing instead of reading out loud
Reading aloud for the new reader is a lot like being asked to tell something in your own words.Writing is going to allow the child the time to process the information and make for deeper and more meaningful understanding of what is being read.Writing is a form of expressive language too, but without the dramatic interpretation.
The second thing you can do is to create meaningful reading experiences for your child.You can do this by writing daily notes to your child.Also, help them memorize and recite poems and bible verses.The young child from age has a tremendous capacity to memorize spoken language.Choose some meaningful literature and encourage memorization.How much better to memorize the 23rd Psalm instead of some commercial jingle.
For the new reader create a set of “action” cards on 3x5 index cards.Action cards will help create deeper reading understanding by involving the whole person.Make a set of ten to twenty cards with one action per card, and place them in a small basket.At the beginning level, the actions will be just one word with words like jump, hop, sit, stand, skip, sing, smile, stop, run, walk.
Invite your child to take the basket of cards, read the activity silently, and then go and do it.You will know that she knows what she is reading when you see her jump, hop, and skip when following the action cards.
The next step would be to give three word actions like get a drink, giggle out loud, set the table, wash a glass, eat a cookie, fix a snack, sing a song, ask a question, make a bed, sweep the floor, draw a bug, play a game, get the cards.Keep these action cards in a small basket in your kitchen and add to them every few days.Your child will ask you when he doesn’t understand a word.You’ll know he or she is reading when you see them doing the activity.Be sure to add some fun, yummy, or silly actions into the set of cards.
You can keep adding actions until they get quite complex, such as:
Go to the window.Rub your finger along the sill.If you think there is too much dust, please dust the windowsill with a paper towel.If you think that it is not dusty, please tell me that the windowsill is clean.
When you hear “Oh, Mom!Do I really have to dust the window?” you’ll believe they truly are reading. You’ll have the confidence to know they are reading without enduring the read aloud blues!
My earliest memory of reading is singing from the Baptist hymnal.I remember being four-and-a-half, standing next to my mother, moving my finger under each hyphenated syllable as we sang.This was a new honor, as my mother had always done that job.Now I could do it!
I know that singing with the hymnal was very important to my reading development.There has not been much research published about how singing aids reading development.For some of my students, singing with a songbook and having some tapes with lyrics available, have been the activities that finally made reading fun and easy for them.
Songs are wonderful memory tools and that is why almost every commercial has music in the background or a jingle.We remember things better when we associate something with music.Every television show has to have a theme song, and for many show tunes we only have to hear two or three notes to think of that show.The Flintstones comes to mind as a perfect example.
Be as savvy as all the advertisers in America and use music to help your children learn and remember things more easily.
When we talk about acquiring spoken language, we have two kinds of language skills that we focus on—receptive language and expressive language.Receptive language refers to how we understand what we hear and see. Receptive language skills include listening, reading, writing and vocabulary enrichment.Expressive language refers to how we can express our thoughts and emotions. Expressive skills include speaking, debating, dramatic presentation, reciting poetry, singing, and writing.For most of us, our receptive language skills are at a higher level than our expressive language skills, meaning we can understand and act on a higher level of language than we can express.For example, we can listen with understanding to our doctor describe a diagnosis and treatment, then feel tongue tied when we try to answer the question, “What did the doctor say?”
These same ideas apply to acquiring written language.We can understand much more of what we read than what we can express.Our reading vocabulary is usually higher than our spoken vocabulary, meaning we can read at a higher level that what we can fluently read out loud or express in our own words.
Singing helps build our expressive language skill along with developing our long-term memory.Singing forces the brain to use both hemispheres.In split brain theory the left side of the brain is involved in verbal skills and the right side is involved in artistic, emotional and physical skills.There is overlap of skills and thinking preferences in the brain, but the more often you can get both hemispheres involved in a learning activity, the stronger the learning experience will be.Singing is one of those activities that involve the whole brain.
Encourage your child to sing and sing along with him or her.If you feel that you “can’t carry a tune in a bucket”, purchase some tapes and sing along books like The Wee Sing Series to get you started.Even if you sing off key, your own singing is the best way to use music as a teaching tool for your children.
For some children, singing as they read, or reading as they sing,will be the activity that will make reading become a fun and enjoyable activity.For other children it might be the activity that turns discouragement into success.
Recently, car seat manufacturers announced they were changing their installation instructions because they were written at too high a reading level for over half of their customers in the United States. How high was that reading level? The instructions were written on the fifth-grade level.
How can you assure your child will be a successful reader and be able to function at the best of his abilities? First, you must be aware of human development and how children learn.
From of birth to six, children are in a sensitive or critical period of language development, and acquiring language is built into the human being at this age. 90% of our spoken language is in place by the age of six. If a child does not speak by age six, it is almost impossible for her to acquire spoken, written or sign language beyond a two-year-old's comprehension level.
Just as a child learns to walk on his own between nine to eighteen months, language does not have to be taught during this sensitive period of language acquisition. In normal development, a child will say his first word around twelve months and by 30 months will be talking in sentences. Children learn to walk and talk without any instruction. When you are aware of your child's intrinsic developmental abilities, you can be of invaluable assistance in his development.
How can you assist your child in language acquisition? For the child from birth to age three, be sure you give her a quiet environment with clear and meaningful communication. A television blaring from every room is a huge obstacle in a child's language development. Clearly spoken language with lots of repetition is important. Make sure your baby can see your face and mouth when you are speaking. Speak "to" your child, not "at" her. Make her language environment rich by reading stories aloud, singing and including her in everyday home activities such as age-appropriate chores, crafts and games.
Around two and a half years, language is fully formed in the child. At age three, a child should be able to clearly speak in full sentences with correct basic syntax (meaning words are spoken in meaningful order), and each sound in a word is clear and intelligible. Unfortunately, for many children this is not the case. Ear infections, a long illness, separation from parents or physical and environmental challenges can cause language delays. Luckily, the sensitive period for language acquisition continues for another three years. It is critical at age three to analyze your child's spoken language for areas that are weak and not fully formed. Once you recognize areas for language development, you can begin to enrich your child's learning environment in purposeful ways.
If you see any speech difficulties, you need to be sure your child has no physical problems taking in information, such as vision problems, hearing problems and problems with muscle tone in the mouth and tongue. Your pediatrician should be able to help you determine if there are any problems that need attention. After making sure there are no physical problems, or after correcting those problems with glasses, hearing aids, special exercises or whatever your pediatrician recommends, you can begin to enrich you child's language environment and target specific skills.
If your child cannot make certain sounds, sing songs two or three times a day using that sound. For example, If your child cannot say the "f" sound, sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" using only the word "fish," "gift" or "off." Make it fun and silly, and in a few days you will begin to see an improvement in your child's "f" sounds. If your child needs work with multiple sounds, concentrate on one at a time, adding one new sound per week while reviewing the previous ones.
To enrich the language environment, be sure everyone (siblings, grandparents, caregivers) speaks to your child correctly. Some of the mispronounced words your children use are cute and funny, but don't incorporate them into your own speech. A four-year-old student of mine had difficulty with the "d" and "s" sounds and would say "pi-no-thor" for dinosaur. His siblings and parents mimicked his speech, so he came to believe that "pi-no-thor" was the correct pronunciation. Remember to always use correct speech and no "baby-talk." If it's not cute on a 30-year-old, don't let it be cute on a three-year-old.
To help with sentence structure, restate your child's sentence in a clear and kind way. For "doggie eat," restate, "Yes, the dog is eating his food." Be sure to give the child correct and kind input. There is no need to force the child to repeat word or sentences correctly. If he or she sees and hears it correctly, he or she will soon be speaking it correctly. Enrich the environment, and let your child's inherent ability to create language do its job.
To strengthen development between ages three to six, take a few minutes and analyze your child's speech:
Does he or she enunciate all the sounds when he or she is speaking? If not, which ones are difficult for him or her?
Does he or she speak in full sentences? For example, does your child say, "The dog is eating his food." instead of "doggie eat food" or "doggie food"?
If the answers to these two questions are no, contact your pediatrician to have your child's eyes and ears examined, and then begin enriching your child's language environment with skill-specific activities.
Kids Talk is a column dealing with early childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt. Ms. Schmidt is founder of a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland. She has over 20 years of experience working with young children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is also creator of a video-based reading series for children ages three to six, The Shining Light Reading Series. Contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.