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John Monfredo: Nurturing Literacy from an Early Age

Saturday, November 03, 2012


The preschool years are essential if we are to make a difference in the lives of our children.  A preschool education is all about PREVENTION! Since the 1983 publication of A Nation at Risk, educators have been looking for various means of lowering the achievement gap in education, and many call for prevention programs. 

Reform programs call for more rigor in our curriculum, beginning with an emphasis of literacy and numeracy.

Creating a literate society starts at birth with parents reading to their children.  “If you want kids to read.. and I mean read well…you’ve got to read to them and with them when they’re young," stated one expert science and computer teacher. 

Hundreds of experts such as author Jim Trelease, of the Reading Aloud Handbook agree.  The preschool years are crucial! Today’s schools will tell you that many children are not coming to school prepared for kindergarten. Children of the 21st century will need to become prepared to learn for a future of unprecedented technology. 

Reading is the basis for all LEARNING.

Being ready to read depends upon parent involvement that encourages and fosters it to the child’s benefit.  The parent involvement aspect is particularly important, because, while reading skills are learned in school, a LOVE for reading is taught by parents as author Mary Leonhardt points out in her book Parents Love Reading, Who Don’t. If parents don’t teach this love of reading, who will? Parents are the child’s first and foremost teacher, so the responsibility of preparing children to enter formal schooling falls upon them. 

Consider field trips to the park or the library. Interact verbally through talk, discussion, singing, rhymes and repeating the alphabet. Encourage and help your child practice physical skills such as crawling, climbing, rolling, skipping. Physical accomplishments help program patterns in the brain that help develop more intricate processes for future learning.

Other ideas include choosing toys that encourage role playing, movement and hands on experiences. Talk and listen to your child. Trips to the grocery store can be a great learning opportunity for everyday experiences are learning experiences. Above all, be patient, for each child develops at an individual pace.

The following is a list of basic skills necessary before entering kindergarten. Not all children will have mastered them, but the child who has mastered a majority of these skills is more likely to be prepared to enter kindergarten.

Cognitive Skills:  names of colors and shapes…can count to 10 and identify the numbers…recognizes the first and last name…compares sizes…draws a person…recites the days of the week…and knows the seasons of the year.

Auditory Perception: Discriminates and identifies sounds…discriminates words…repeats a pattern…can tell you the main ideas of oral stories and discrimination of rhyming words.

Gross Motor Skills: hops on one, two feet…throws a ball…rides a trike…balances on one foot…marches…mirrors movement…and runs, skips, and gallops

Self Help: Puts materials away…knows address…knows personal information…has safety awareness and can tie his shoes and button or zip coat.

Language and Prereading: Responds to questions…repeats a sentence…describes own drawing…repeats song or fingerplay…recites the alphabet…tracts left to right…indentifies letters – upper and lower… and re-tells story from book.

Social and Emotional:  Creates a picture…interacts with peers and adults…plays cooperatively…separates from parents…follows rules and shows pride in work.

Fine Motor Skills: holds pencils correctly…cuts with scissors…works 5 piece puzzles…traces name…prints name…draws shapes and prints alphabet.

Hygiene:  Allows sufficient time for toilet needs…manages bathroom facilities… and cleans up after one self

Now, here are some strategies for reading aloud to your child:

Make it Cozy:  Hold the child on your lap and snuggle.  The special warmth of being together contributes to the child’s enjoyment.  Your child will appreciate the sense of peace that comes from your own relaxation.

Make reading fun: Use voice inflections for different characters and animal sounds for animals.  Be dramatic, for children enjoy special effects with reading.

Select books that suit the child: Choose books wisely, according to age appropriateness so that the child will not become bored and lose interest. Turn off the TV. Also, repeat favorite stories over and over again if the child asks you to do so.

Establish a regular schedule:  Children like consistency and habits begin early.  The child who has grown accustomed to a regular family reading time before going to bed will have the habit well instilled by the time he/she reaches school age.

If you’re not a good reader, practice reading aloud to yourself and be able to tell stories.  You can also ask a relative or a friend or older child to read to your child. 

Other worthwhile ideas include singing songs to your child, playing word games or saying a word in your native tongue and let the child repeat it in English.  Try saying the alphabet together, and above all visit the Worcester Public Library and the bookmobile.

Early education is the first building block of a good education and our entire community( government, business leaders, church leaders, health professionals, social workers) need to join the school and the home do whatever it takes to get the job done.


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