Get Ready, Get Set... Go Reading!
© Beverley Paine, 2004
A child's readiness for reading is predicated on a number of factors, such as gender, health, verbal ability, visual and auditory perception, experience, and desire to read.
Not all children develop at the same rate. Even within a single family, children can differ widely in development, attention span, likes and dislikes. It may take longer for your child to perceive the difference between some letters of the alphabet. We found enormous difference in the way our children learned to read, as well as the age they began reading. Recognise and appreciate those differences. Minimise comparison between siblings, or between your child and other children of the same age. Resist the temptation to compare your ability as a youngster to your child. We're all different.
Clear diction when speaking is essential if you want to develop spelling skills. I learned this lesson when all three of my children left letters out in the same type of words. I wasn't pronouncing my words clearly! Talking too fast can also lead to confusion in children.
Physical, gross and fine motor problems or delayed development may cause difficulties in acquiring reading skills. Patience is required, and if necessary, further investigation. Nonetheless it is always possible to read to children, to tell stories and recite poetry, to point out what it says on signs and to help them write. My youngest didn't learn to read until age ten; his homeschooling saved him from the behavioural problems I am sure so many of schooled counterparts develop and we were able to keep his self-esteem intact. He always thought of himself as a reader and writer and had confidence that one day he'd be able to do both independently. At seventeen he is a confident writer and has published tutorials on his website and writes regularly on Internet forums. As he grew, we had his eyesight and hearing checked regularly and kept abreast of possible disorders and symptoms, just in case.
Children's background knowledge and experiences are key factors in their readiness to read. Often families purchase overseas curriculum materials and notice that their children don't immediately grasp a concept because they are unfamiliar with the content. A child familiar with Australian animals may not necessarily know about 'deer', 'moose' or 'elk', but these may be familiar to Canadian children. By widening a child's experiences you will not only increase their knowledge and understanding of the world around them, you will improve their vocabulary and get them ready for reading.
Television can be aid in developing reading readiness too. Discuss concepts that are new to your child as you view programs together. Encourage your child to ask questions, if not during the program itself, then during the ad break. If you want to pay attention and don't want to answer a question straight or chat about something away, write the question or topic down on a notepad on the coffee table and bring the subject up again after the program or at the next convenient time.
Building your child's vocabulary through conversation and by reading to him is an excellent way to prepare for reading. Read, read, read - anything and everything, from the daily paper to cereal packets to great literature. Children soak up information like sponges. They don't have to learn or remember everything, especially those things you particularly want them to remember, but I bet you'll be amazed at what they do recall when you make a habit of reading aloud. Talk about what you read too; get a conversation going. I can't emphasise this point enough!
Children learn how language fits together by listening to it; for this reason I always had the radio on the ABC during the day. The constant flow of information quietly reinforced my children's language skills, without any effort on my behalf.
There are many factors that can temporarily 'cloud' a mind: exhaustion, physical tiredness, late night, too much television or computer, lack of fresh air, dehydrations (our brains need oodles of water to think clearly), hunger, incorrect nutrition, allergies and intolerances to food, airborne particles and smells, pain, and emotional or physical stress. Check for these first before you begin to worry about developmental delay. The remedy to reluctant reading may easier than you first thought!
My children loved doing all the reading readiness activities I'd prepared for them, from doing jigsaw puzzles, playing 'old maid' and 'donkey' card games, 'twenty questions', copying and tracing shapes and pictures, playing with construction toys - anything that built their visual perception skills. Rhymes, chants, songs, tongue twisters, word games and music helped to build auditory perception skills.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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