Questions Parents Ask About Young Children's Reading Behaviors (page 5)
Read below to find out more about common questions parents have about teaching their children to read.
I've heard that it is important to read to your child. Why?
Children can develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values of proficient readers by listening to literature. Numerous research studies have concluded that reading aloud to children increases their reading achievement scores, listening and speaking abilities, letter and symbol recognition, ability to use more complex sentences, ability to understand language, concept development, and positive attitudes toward reading.
When should I begin reading to my child?
Your child started on the road to reading the day that you first held your newborn in your arms and sang a lullaby, bounced your baby on your knee in time to a nursery rhyme, or encouraged your toddler to point to pictures in a book and name them. Literature for the very young is not limited to books. Newborns have fully developed hearing and can listen to a lullaby; lullabies are literature. Babies delight in play rhymes like "This Little Piggy"; poetry is literature. Toddlers enjoy "point and say" with simple books; cardboard and cloth books with simple pictures are literature. Preschoolers delight in simple stories told aloud, such as "The Three Bears"; storytelling is literature. Literature is more than a quiet reading of a storybook with your child on your lap. Even the youngest child can begin to associate enjoyment with literature.
When will my child begin to read on her own?
According to researchers:
Reading is a continuum that began when your child first started to use language: it will continue well into adult life. Even though our culture presently dictates that formal reading should begin early, much research tells us that an informal beginning eventually produces more skilled and willing readers. The most important component of the reading process is learning to love and appreciate books. Recognition of individual words follows—but must never precede—this step. Another vital ingredient in reading successfully is the reader's background of experience. One of the most important functions of the early childhood teacher is to build on children's nonvisual experiences so that meaning can be attached to print. Oral language development is the third major area of reading instruction for young children. Phonetically decoding words is of no value to children when the words have no meaning. (Simmons & Brewer, 1984, p. 177)
Doesn't a child have to be ready to read?
It is common to say that the child must be ready to read. But the concept of reading readiness is outdated, mainly because it denies all of the preparation that leads up to reading. Learning to walk is a good analogy. Adults don't sit around waiting for the child to take those first steps; rather, adults lead, support, and coax the child. The same strategies apply to learning to read.
Is it a good idea to try to teach my child to read before he or she starts school?
If you interviewed parents whose children learned to read early, most of them would say, "I never really taught him; we just shared stories together and he sort of picked up reading on his own." A relaxed, informal introduction is just what the young child needs. Children need to be invited into the world of literature, not dragged. Sometimes parents try too hard and make reading drudgery. A better strategy is to adopt the same tolerant attitude toward language learning that we have about children's initial singing efforts. We don't panic when young children sing off-key or assume that they are doing irreparable damage to their musical development. Rather, we allow them to experiment, enjoy, and learn.
Why does my child ask me to read and then keep interrupting?
When children listen to a story, they are in on-the-job-training as readers. Reading is the process of deriving meaning from print, and your child's questions show that he or she is working to make sense out of the book. The best story sharing sessions include playful discussions of the book. In fact, as much as 80 percent of the talk that takes place when a skillful adult reads a picture book to a child could be described as commentary about the pictures or text. Try to follow the child's lead instead of putting her on the spot through constant quizzing. You might wonder out loud, saying something like, "Hmm. I wonder what the puppy will do now ... " Another way to talk about books is to merely comment, saying, for instance, "It looks like nobody recognizes Harry now that he is all dirty." Both the adult and the child should leave the session with a feeling of satisfaction.
How do I choose books my child will like?
Although there are books that have delighted children for decades, it is sometimes difficult to predict which books children will really love. One thing is certain: With thousands of new books for children published annually, there is no good reason to stick with a book that does not interest your child. Try borrowing a selection of books from the library with some help from a children's librarian and then letting your child choose. Consult with your child's caregiver or teacher about books that seem to be appealing or lists of recommended books. Apply some basic selection criteria of your own, such as Does the content or level seem appropriate for my child? Has the book been well endorsed by families (e.g., earned a Parents' Choice Award)? Do the pictures complement the story? Would I enjoy sharing this book with my child? Does the book appear to be a high-quality product (good illustrations, print quality, skillful use of language)? The clear sign that a book has been well received by your child is the request "Read it again!"
Why does my child ask to hear the same book over and over again?
According to Picture Book Stndio USA (1985):
A picture book of real substance is enjoyed again and again. It is like visiting a favorite vacation spot. No matter how well you know it, going back is always a delight. It is a calm secure place with no real surprises, but a constant supply of good times nevertheless. All the memories are sweet, all the best views and secret places are recalled and anticipated, and the very familiarity is a comfort and a rest. (p. 2)
Even though adults may grow weary of rereading the same book, that repetition leads to a major breakthrough. After children memorize all of the words in a story, they can use familiarity to gain insights about the reading process. When a child protests if an adult misreads a passage or tries to abbreviate the text, it is a sign that the child is learning to read. Although adults sometimes scoff at memorization and say it is not real reading, memorization is a step in the process of learning to read.
My child already knows his letters and numbers. Doesn't this mean he is ready to read?
When children first recite the alphabet or sing "The Alphabet Song," those sounds often have little meaning for them. If we listen carefully, we can even hear that children have memorized chunks of sound. The sequence l-m-n-o-p, for instance, is sung as if it were a word, elemenopea, rather than individual letters. Behaviors like these should tell adults that the child needs more concrete experiences, not more memorization. Where reading is concerned, activities such as reading and discussing books together; making writing materials accessible; encouraging children to make marks on paper; and providing creative play materials such as blocks, clay, sand, and water will all contribute to the child's ability to attribute meaning to those abstract symbols called letters and words. After all, interpreting symbols is what reading is all about.
When should I stop reading to my child?
Most parents think that they should stop reading aloud to a child as soon as that child is reading independently. Actually, hearing a challenging story read aloud by a fluent adult reader is both pleasurable and instructive for children who are already reading. The time to stop reading to a child is when he or she says, "That's okay, I'd rather read it by myself." Even after the child does say this, it is much more satisfying to be able to talk about a book with someone else who read and enjoyed it. So parents should continue to read some of the books that their children recommend to them. You may be surprised to see just how wonderful some of these stories are. Sarah Plain and Tall, for example, was a Hallmark Hall of Fame special that became one of the most beloved films made for television. It was based on a children's book by Patricia McLachlan.
Source: Adapted from Jalongo, 1992.
© ______ 2007, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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