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The 3 Secrets of Early Reading

Image Source: http://www.scusd.edu/

I remember as a little girl that I loved to read - I would even pretend to read my mother stories that I had learned to memorise. When I learned to write, my love of words was further extended, and I would re-write by hand poems and songs that I loved to listen to.

However, as we get older, we are bombarded wherever we go by the written word whether it be through advertising, logos, memos, emails, sms's, or monthly post... The 'magic' of reading is lost and we can begin to think that reading is just one of many ways to interact with our children.

The benefits of reading are obvious for most parents - increased language, better grades at school, exercising memory and understanding skills etc. - the list goes on and on. However, there are certain benefits of reading that are unique to sitting down and opening a book... irreplaceable with any other experience...

We know that most parents understand the more obvious benefits of reading, so today we want to look at three priceless benefits that you wouldn't necessarily think about when choosing to sit down with your child and a book and open that first page....

It's about Love

Reading to a child communicates love and acceptance to a child primarily in two ways - firstly, through physical touch, and secondly through sharing an experience that fosters emotional closeness.

We've written before on the blog about just how important Love is to learning - it is the 'thing' that makes all learning stick.  And the beauty of reading with your child is that it is about more than just pictures and words on a page - it is about Love.

Imagine a scene where a dad is reading to his son. The son is sitting on his father's lap, enveloped in his arms, and both of them are fixated on the book in front of them. Dad is reading each word with emphasis, his tone and inflection changing, and his facial expressions mimicking what he's reading. He suddenly roars (like a lion...) and his son laughs and curls even closer to his dad... Can you see it? Can you see what we're trying to describe?

As parents, we can sometimes see reading a chore... But for a child, reading is about Love.  It is a time when his mom or dad physically and emotionally 'comes down' to his level and there is a closeness. He comes to anticipate the funny monkey sounds or the knock-knock-knocking that are coming on the next page... his excitement and joy are barely contained...

Reading fosters Love - it is about sharing, one-on-one with your child. It is about opening up a world of fairy tales, or dinosaurs, or farm animals or whatever it is... It is about taking your child's hand and guiding them through a door into a world where they will be given anything their heart desires...

Teaching your child to associate love and closeness with reading is possibly the best foundation you could ever lay for your child in terms of academics, social skills, and increasing language and therefore intellectual development. This is because the pleasant memories create in a child a hunger for more... But more than that, reading gives you an opportunity to be close, to share a moment, to laugh together and Love together.

Its about finding a familiar place in the world

As parents, we assume that children get bored of reading the same book over and over again, but contrary to this popular belief, children actually thrive on this predictability. To a child, being able to predict what is going to happen on the next page is equal to being able to predict his world and understand his place in it, making him feel safe and secure. Predictability is one of the most fundamental emotional and intellectual needs of a child, and reading is the easiest way for a parent to almost exactly recreate an entire 20 minute experience over and over again, day after day.

Repetition is of course also a strong foundation of learning - because children learn through seeing, hearing and experiencing the same thing over and over again.

It's about doing what works

Another common misconception is that books are often seen as 'old fashioned' and parents are tempted to replace them with seemingly more modern stimulation, such as television, dvd's, video games, computers, and battery-operated toys with moving parts and flashing lights...

The difference between these 'new and improved' types of stimulation and reading, is that reading (and story-telling) will always be the number one activity that requires of a child to actively use his brain to make it fun. In order for reading to 'make sense' and be enjoyable, your child needs to use various parts of his brain to process the activity. As opposed to other more 'modern' stimulation, where a lot less is asked of his brain...

Finally it is important to understand that reading is a really high-functioning skill and nothing else, definitely not television, not educational games, not flash cards, not even something as precious as talking to your child or singing songs till the cows come home... nothing stimulates phonetic and phonological awareness (which is absolutely crucial for reading readiness) quite as much as reading age-appropriate children's books with loads of rhyme and repetition, over and over again. Therefore, reading to a child not only fosters a love for reading, it actually wires a child's brain to be able to learn to read later on...

With this said, we hope that the next time you buy your child a book, or the next time you reorganise their book-shelf, you stop for a second and see a book for what it is... It is not only the best foundation for future reading abilities with all the good things that go along with that, but it is also a magical key to demonstrating your love for your child, and creating a safe and predictable place for him in our fast-paced world that can at times be so scary for little souls...

A book really is more than just the sum total of it's pages and colourful pictures - it is a gift; for you, for your child, for the future.

Words: Loren Stow
when we know better... we do better

Comments? Please email lizette@practicaprogam.co.za

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