Children and Literacy
Literacy and Books
Although children may begin to learn to read by asking what the writing says on the Corn Flakes packet, the best way is through books. Lots of fun and entertainment can be obtained through ebooks and various electronic devices, but there is nothing like a book that can be read over and over again.
Children can learn to enjoy and value books from an early age and if they are encouraged to do this, they most likely will continue to do so right through their lives. Reading is a vital, exciting way to find out about new things and we know that, as adults, it's something that we can really appreciate. Books are something permanent that will keep; they make great gifts for almost anyone of any age. They can be kept, treasured and passed on to the next generation.
Most adults have learned to read so long ago that it is difficult to recall just when they first began. It has become part of them and of their culture. However, that is not true for everyone.
- Not all children are ready to begin learning to read at the same age. Some children are curious and ask questions and are eager to start. With their parents' help, they can begin to learn quite early and may be fluent readers by the time they start school. The influence of their parents is important in this situation and their interest and response without putting pressure on the child can encourage their enthusiasm and the child will learn quickly and happily. It is certainly worth the effort.
- Other children are hardly ready by the time they start to attend school. Having lead a Preparatory (or Prep) teaching team some years ago, I became very conscious of the enormous responsibility of teaching the first year at school. To me, it is the most important year of all in a child's schooling. Much of the teaching may be directed in a 'play way,' but the underlying goals are very serious. If a child feels that he is achieving, he will probably enjoy school and be enthusiastic to learn more; it will be fun for him - and for those around him. However, if he feels he is a failure at this age, it will take a long time for him to regain confidence and begin to succeed. Reading is one of the ares of literacy that is a major factor in his success.
- Not everyone has been fortunate enough to have learned to read during early childhood. Delayed development, illness, physical disability or even parental disinterest may have contributed to this. Being unable to read does not mean that the person will never become literate, but it may be more difficult and require patience and perseverance.
- Even for adults it's never to late to begin and there are centres in many communities where help is available. If you know someone who has difficulty reading, find out where they can go, and then go with them. Moral support and knowing that someone cares can be a huge assistance in helping someone gain confidence to take that big step and begin on a journey that can take them into the wonderful world of books.
Literacy Leads to Life-long Pleasure
Once a child - or an adult learner - is confident with their reading, it can be a delight to encourage them to keep on reading. Reading literacy really can give life-long pleasure. It opens doors to learning about the world around us, how to do and make things or just give fun and appeal to our sense of imagination. Reading can be done by oneself or shared in a family or in a community
1. Reading Within a Family:
- Bedtime stories are a great favourite and can include the whole family. It can reinforce that important 'togetherness' of the family. If there are stories to share, sit next to each other. Parents, put your arm around your child as you read to her or as she reads to you; make it a special time.
- With older children, reading can be a great winter activity when the family gathers around the fire. Perhaps some are enjoying handcrafts and some knitting. Each person can take a turn to read to the others - as used to happen before the advent of TV and computer games. It can be fun and good for sharing with the whole family.
- A play-reading can be great fun, too, with each member of the family taking parts; if there are not enough in the family for the characters needed, each person can take more than one part and try to make their characters different from each other, changing the pitch and speed of speaking for the different part.
2. Reading Within a Community:
- Many public libraries, towns and cities, even just the families living in a particular street have flourishing Book Clubs. It may be for adults or for whole families. You may have similar activities as those suggested for the family, or each family may read the same book and then the group come together once a month to discuss the book.
- Many churches have Home Groups and Bible Study Groups, too, where passages from the Bible are read and discussed. Apart from what can be learned in these groups, it's a great way of getting to know neighbours and meeting people.
Different Kinds of Literacy
There are other kinds of literacy which are important in the lives of children. In some countries music literacy is taught at the same age as reading; right at the beginning of their education. Literacy is very good for development of the brain, but also it is the beginning of life-long learning in any number of spheres.
Computer games and ebooks have their place and can entertain children quite well, but learning within the family should not stop there. Parents, give your children good books, share with them and teach the children to value books, care for them and learn from them. Literacy of any kind is not just the responsibility of the school; it begins at home.