Editor’s Note: Below are a few of our most frequently asked questions from parents about literacy:
How do I choose the right book to read to my child?
Simply stated, if you like the book, so will your child. The biggest mistake parents make when choosing what to read, is to choose books that are too simple. Although children may have a limited speaking vocabulary, they have very sophisticated internal ones. They enjoy humor, an interesting plot, and real-life characters. Don’t hesitate to choose a book for your child that has quality and depth. You both deserve to enjoy good literature.
Why read aloud?
There are many purposes for reading aloud with your child. (See Reading With Children.)
- to instill a love of reading through a close and loving experience.
- to create an appreciation of language, both oral and written.
- to increase vocabulary.
- to develop pre-reading skills ( left-to-right progression, top to bottom, title, author, …)
However, the most important reason is to simply enjoy each other’s company – time in a shared experience, bonding over bears, balloons, and other mysteries of life.
What one misconception do adults have about preparing young children for literacy?
Many adults talk down to young children, using simple words and exaggerated tones. They talk slowly and imply that the child is not capable of understanding. This is a disservice to both adults and children.
In fact, in a study released in 2003 and published by The American Federation of Teachers, researchers reported that in order to set the stage for vocabulary development, a child must absorb rich, home-related language experiences by the age of 3.
Therefore, when talking with a young child, use a normal conversational tone. Use the words you would use when speaking to an older child or an adult. You will know when you need to clarify a term or define a word.
My son’s speech is “off” …
“My son is 2 years old and since birth we have been fighting chronic ear problems. Now that we have remedied all of the problems, I have noticed that his speech is off …”
At the age of 2, your son is just beginning to sort through language patterns and sounds. There are still many consonant sounds that he is not yet able to produce or reproduce. In fact, between now and the age of 8, your son will be working to develop/articulate many speech sounds. Below is a suggested summary of the consonant sounds he will be working on at each age:
- 18 months to 3 years: p,m,h,n,w,b
- 2 years to 4 years: b,k,g,d,t,ng ( some children do not acquire the t and ng sounds until age 6)
- 2 1/2 years to 4 years: f,y
- 3 years to 6 years: r,l,s (some children do not acquire the s sound until age 8)
- 3 1/2 to 7 or 8 years: ch,sh,z
- 4 to 7 or 8 years: j,v
“My third grade daughter does not like to read. Advice?”
This is a common problem for children her age since much of the curriculum, social studies, math, and science, require students to be a very capable readers.
Her dislike of reading could be coming from any number of circumstances, but most likely it is simply because reading has become a negative experience. And we all try to avoid unpleasant experiences. Perhaps she was asked to read aloud and when she made a mistake, other children made comments. If a teacher is not sensitive to different readers’ abilities, this often occurs and results in young readers who have been embarrassed and lost confidence.
You have the wonderful opportunity to build up her confidence and love of reading. Visit your library and have her select the maximum number of books to read. Any kind. Any age level – even easy picture books. Let her choose. And let her check them out using her own library card. This will help her develop a sense of ownership about reading.
Then you use your library card to choose books that you would like to read to her. Be sure that you will enjoy each book and be interested in the story line. It may be a mystery book where you read a chapter a night, or a biography about someone you admire, or a book of short stories where you would read a complete story in one sitting, or a comedy in which you can both laugh …
The important thing is to make sure that this quality time is special to your daughter. Make the routine special – include an overstuffed chair … something that will imprint on her memory that reading is a pleasant experience and the most wonderful part of her daily life. Every night. Just the two of you. Fifteen minutes when she can listen to your voice and learn to appreciate the sound of beautiful language.
Once her enthusiasm about reading begins to emerge, in a month or so, you can begin to take turns and have her read something aloud to you. Something she chooses. This will help her build confidence about reading aloud.
Just remember to enjoy each other’s company and the reading experience. No rules. Just have fun. Your sharing will go a long way in helping your daughter want to read AND you will be making a memory!
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