Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Children Learn To Read With Their Ears.

No, not a new use for the organ of hearing, but if you think about the process of sitting with a small child looking at books, magazines or junk mail, in fact anything with words and preferably pictures as well, you will both be looking at and  probably pointing to pictures and saying what the picture is. Later on you may ask the little one to find and point to the picture, or find a colour. It is an easy way to develop the child’s vocabulary and knowledge of animals, colours, flowers and objects.

Depending on their age and, to a certain degree, their personality and mood, these “reading” sessions can be short and energetic - with the book grabbed and put into the mouth to chew, or snatched from you, waved about and flung on the floor. (Been there, done that!)  If it becomes much more fun to make you wear the book as a hat and then repeatedly knock it off you might as well admit defeat and postpone the “reading” for another day – or of course, wear one book and read another.

Reading” should be fun and a special time of closeness. It can be a relaxing end to the day before bedtime, a distraction on a long train or air journey or a way to distract and comfort. If you point to the words as you read the first simple picture books the child will associate the word sound with the word shape. Soon they will begin to remember both the verbal story and the shape of the words and recognise them in other books.

I used to make shopping lists for my small daughter before we went to the supermarket together. Her shopping list had simple words on it like Bread, Milk, Butter, Jam, Apples, and beside each word I drew a picture of the item. A game of Hunt the Items was added and then as she began to learn her numbers we played “Meet you in aisle 5 or 18” using the numbers she had learnt. (I never let her out of my sight, creeping sleuth like behind her as she skipped off to find the right aisle).

At home we played a game where we left messages for each other. The words she knew and one new one were written on large pieces of paper and laid on the floor as a message. To begin with it was a very simple game. I would ask “Where is teddy hiding?” and a word like Bed was put out. If teddy was not on the bed a word No and another word like Table placed there and so on until teddy was found. A treasure hunt with word clues to find teddy developed into words being placed in simple sentences as clues.

It was all part of learning to read and it started with hearing the words first. Reading is such a joy and it delights me to see children in book shops and libraries eagerly searching the shelves for a new book to read, often so eager to start that they sit on the floor reading.

A wonderful world of imagination and knowledge awaits them. 

The founder of Fairy Tale Children's Furniture, Zandra Johnson is a passionate advocate of imaginative play for children. Studies reveal free time spent playing make-believe helps children develop critical cognitive skills. Fairytale Furniture helps build those skills through imaginative play. Download your free guide to Imaginative Play at FAIRYTALECHILDRENSFURNITURE.CO.UK