As an early childcare provider I consider my greatest gifts to the children in my care to be:
-Love and Desire for Learning
-Logic and Reasoning Skills
With these in place, they are prepared for life. They can learn ANYTHING. They can be successful in any social situation. However of these, reading is the one skill, that if they have that basically down when they enter kindergarten, puts them far ahead in life.
In a training I attended one of the main things they pointed out was, "Over a third of children in the US enter school unprepared to learn. They lack the vocabulary, sentence structure, and other basic skills that are required to do well in school. Children who start behind GENERALLY STAY BEHIND - they drop out, they turn off. Their LIVES ARE AT RISK." (all caps my emphasis)
As parents and educators, it is being brought out that the No Child Left Behind policy in the elementary school system is TOO LATE. Preparation for success in today's world starts around 9 months of age. This doesn't mean that we start pushing children from an early age to learn things beyond their capabilities. It means - we begin to ENGAGE CHILDREN IN THEIR WORLD and expand their paradigms.
Every time a child takes a physical leap, they take a cognitive leap. They start crawling, they are no longer focused upon their little play area, but upon everything they can get to that is about a foot high. They start pulling up, that focus expands by another two foot high. They start climbing, and it broadens further. Each time, they experience fear. Because their concept of the world just got bigger and unknown. It isn't what they knew, what they were comfortable with.
Reading does that for preschoolers. It expands their world and their knowledge and is a rush for their imagination and cognitive skills.
"No one can learn to play the piano just by listening to someone else play. Likewise, no one can learn to read just by listening to someone else read. Children learn most from books when they are actively involved."
Parents who actively read to their children do many, if not all, of the activities below. However, even as an educator, I have not done it INTENTIONALLY, METHODICALLY, with specific outcomes identified and assessed. The methodology is called Dialogic (Interactive) Reading. It has been extensively researched and proven to be the best way to read WITH young children for the most benefit to their reading readiness and comprehension ability. A 2nd grader may be reading at a 6th grade level by word, but be totally unable to comprehend and analyze what they have read. Reading words is not understanding. True reading requires both and they should be taught together from the beginning. A quick overview is that the adult:
- Prompts the child to say something about the book,
- Evaluates the child's response
- Expands the child's response by rephrasing and adding information to it, and
- Repeats the prompt to make sure the child has learned from the expansion.
This process is presented in detail in the article http://www.readingrockets.org/article 16287?theme=print. I strongly urge every parent and teacher of a child up to 3rd grade to check out this article and to take it's practices to heart.
Additionally, a one-page reading Tips for Parents for your child's specific age can be found at http://www.readingrockets.org/article/18935.
Reading Rockets is a wonderful website and they have an on-line newsletter and a ton of information for parents and educators to help teach children to read.