Building Reading and Writing Knowledge with Very Young Children at Hom
Nov 15, 2018 English Language Learning (ELL) 6936 Views
Education Today, December 2013
Building Reading and Writing Knowledge with Very Young Children at Home
Timothy G. Weih
University of Northern Iowa, USA
With the ever increasing use of technology being used for reading and writing by families at home, there is a rising concern that very young children may not be developing the necessary early skills that will eventual lead them to be capable and effective readers and writers. Young children learn how the world works around them by physically exploring objects using all of their senses. This hands-on learning later leads to understanding more abstract ideas and things. For very young children, technology, for the most part, is abstract, and to use it involves motor capabilities that may be beyond their current abilities. For example, think of a toddler leaning about books by smelling, tasting, and physically turning the pages. He is learning the physical, concrete ideas about what a book is, how it works, and he can do this independently. Now think of the same toddler using an iPad, or similar device, to learn about books. Older children, who have had early experiences with real books, can understand the ideas of books in electronic format and how to use them on their own, but for very young children, they are abstract, and the children are unable to fully ‘work” and explore this object on their own. An important element of learning for very young children is that they be able to explore and manipulate objects independently without help from older siblings and adults.
Young children learn about the world around them through mimicking what they see older children and adults doing. When it comes to reading and writing, if they only see the bigger people in their lives with small electronic gadgets in their hands, their literacy growth and development could possibly be minimized. Children’s growth in cognitive development has not changed, they still need the real objects that comprise reading and writing, and see the older people in their lives using these objects in order to build reading and writing skills, and once these skills are realized, they will begin to understand the more abstract electronic tools, i.e., technology that can be used for learning reading and writing. What can families do to insure that their children are learning the necessary building blocks for cognitive development of reading and writing abilities? Presented next in this article are some home-based activities along with materials necessary to advance literacy development for very young children.
Build Knowledge about Books
When reading aloud to children, either position them close to your shoulders or sit them on your lap with the book in front for all to see. They should be able to see the pages continuously as you read and turn them. Begin by reading the title on the cover along with the author and illustrator’s names. Turn the pages of the book to allow the children to see the pictures and ask them what they think is happening in each picture. Then say you are going to read the book now and find out all about it. Point to the words as you read them aloud. Allow the children to talk, ask questions, and point to pictures in the book while you are reading. The reading of the book is more of an exchange of discussion between yourself and the children. While you are reading, use a lot of expression in your voice. It’s best to have a set time when you read aloud to children, so that they know what to expect and they will soon look forward to this bonding-over-a-book time. Keep books where the children can easily reach them and explore them on their own.
Build knowledge about Words
Read alphabet books with your children. While reading, point out letters and words to them and encourage them to copy what you say while you read to them. Accumulate a collection of alphabet puzzles, magnetic alphabet letters, and alphabet building blocks for children to play and explore with. Sing the alphabet song with them, and play recordings of alphabet songs for them to listen to. Children also learn that certain words go together to stand for groups of things such as names of food, animals, plants, and so on. They can learn these word associations through conversations with you as you point out things around the house, outside in the yard or on a nature walk, and illustrations in books and magazines.
Build the Knowledge of How Reading Sounds
Children will learn how reading sounds when you read aloud to them. They will watch your face and listen to your voice and begin to pretend to read books on their own as they mimic you. It is also important that they listen to recordings of books being read aloud on electronic equipment. This will be fun and entertaining for them, and they will hear different voices and ways to express reading through sound.
Build the Knowledge of Writing
As you read aloud to children and they explore books on their own, they will want to mimic what they are experiencing, or in other words, they will want to re-create what they see and hear. It is important to remember that their writings will look like scribbling, but to them, what they have created has meaning and purpose. The children will most likely read their writing to you while making this meaning up as they go along. This is related to pretend reading, and the two are interconnected for their learning to read and write. Do not expect their writings to look like adult writing until they are, well, adults. Just as reading involves a process of learning, so, too, does writing. Just as it is important to have all types of books within easy reach of your children, it is also important to have all kinds of writing tools for them to use to make their own books and to caption their own illustrations. Very young children learn by manipulating objects around them with their hands. They need the actual objects in order to begin to develop knowledge about what they can do and how the objects work. Since their hands are small, at first they will need oversized markers and crayons (not pencils) to write with. The materials they write on should be sturdy to withstand the pressure they will exert, so card stock, construction paper, pieces of cardboard, poster board or poster paper will work best. They will want to put their books together, so glue, a stapler, and masking tape will come in handy. Things will get messy, but this will be a constructive kind of mess, and your children will be learning to write, and they will realize the relationships between reading and writing through reading their work to you.
Build the Knowledge of Technology
Finally, it is important to have available and to model the use of electronic means for reading and writing at the same time as children are learning the more concrete methods. In today’s world, children will need to be able to learn from and use both print and digital forms of literacy. Their reading and writing skills will begin to develop with the concrete, hands-on materials, and then they will be able to understand the more abstract tools that the older people in their lives are using.