How do children learn to read and write?
Learning to Read and Write, an Individual Journey
The unfolding of the reading and writing process in young children is a wonder. Making sense of symbols on paper is no small task. According to Eric Jenson, author of Teaching with the Brain in Mind, there is no set age for learning to read and write. He strongly suggests that the best time is when the brain is ready. Jensen and others who believe in a balanced approach to literacy understand that there are as many ways to learn how to read and write, as there are people. The brain evolves in very individual ways, and each child, from infancy, responds to different stimuli. Those responses are directly linked to the way the brain develops. The most important thing that parents and teachers can give children is a language rich environment. Children thrive when they learn while having loving and fun experiences. They reap life-long rewards when we connect reading, writing, singing, storytelling, listening, and conversation to enjoyment.
Early Literacy At Randolph School
There are many ways in addition to reading books and writing stories that we explore literacy at Randolph School. Singing, acting, movement, recitation, brainstorming word lists, noticing environmental print, and reading the meaning in pictures are all part of literacy. It is important that children recognize that even when they are not reading print, they may be reading. Decoding, without meaning, is a meaningless activity. Engaging children in making sense of their experiences helps them learn to look for the meaning in print. This also helps them create meaning in their writing.
At Randolph School, children spend a lot of time reading and listening to good literature. Each day there is time set aside for quiet reading. Whether a child is reading chapter books or enjoying the pictures from well-loved storybooks, all children engage in daily quiet reading in their own way. Often children choose books that capture their interests for independent reading. However, we also read books to and with children, allowing them to enjoy text that may be beyond their independent reading ability. Reading aloud with children is a way to bond and build relationship as well as being a way to build vocabulary and expand comprehension. We also encourage children to read to and with each other.
In addition to this free exploration of literature, children participate in guided literacy lessons, strengthening reading, writing and comprehension skills.
The Connection between Reading and Writing
For many children, writing evolves from pictures. It is fascinating to listen to children talk about the pictures that they are drawing. Children often compose intricate stories as they draw. It is not always possible to capture these stories in print, but all the elements of writing are occurring, including editing and revising. Children frequently self-correct and revise their work as they draw, totally absorbed in their ideas. Listening to children as they tell and draw their stories validates their work and is a great way to learn about their process.
As children evolve in their writing ability, adding words and sentences to their pictures, they often use their understanding of phonics (letter/sound connection) to help them spell. We do not correct spelling at this stage in writing development. There is plenty of time to address spelling. Early in the writing process, it is important that children make sense of the words they write. It is better to address spelling once they become confident and fluent in their writing. The phonemic connection between reading and writing is as important to the development of reading as it is to development of writing. As we teach word families and other intricacies of the English language, children will learn spelling strategies.
Encouraging Literacy at Home
At home, we encourage parents to set aside time to read to your child. Let this be relaxed and fun. Please, do not prod your child to read to you. If he/she offers to read, sit back and enjoy the story, offering help only when requested. Do not worry about mistakes. Some children may be reading from memory or getting context clues from the pictures. If this is the case, simply enjoy your child's telling of the story. You may want to reread the story aloud, giving your child the opportunity to hear the language as written. This might be the perfect time to track words with your finger reinforcing the value of the print on the page and the directionality of print. It is also a good idea to sing songs, read poems and make up silly rhymes. Rhyming is a very important auditory discrimination skill and it is helpful in developing both reading and writing abilities.
Whether your child is reading chapter books or just learning the alphabet, enjoy your child's current stage in the reading/writing process. Have fun and know that your relaxed attitude will go a long way toward encouraging your child to develop a life long love of literacy.