Creating Environment for Reading

In the previous post, I wrote about the importance of environment in learning a skill. I want to share now what I did to create an environment suitable and fertile for the development of reading skills of my daughter.

  1. Initial introduction so that kids get a nice idea about the letter shapes and names.

    Rhymes and ABCD puzzle games are good fit for this purpose. We had this ABCD game which served as a great resource for my kid to learn letters. The letter pieces in this game were big, clear and sturdy. The pictures were helpful in the starting when my kid did not know the letter names so I would say, "Oh, you got an "A" put it on apple". We would call the different pieces by their names so I would say, "Give me 'H', I want 'P', where has 'Z' gone, did it get lost? lets call it aloud so that it shows itself up. (Calling aloud helped in reinforcing the letter name and shape). So basically the idea is to invent little fun games on-the-go and play them together.

  2. Finding similar patterns in real everyday world so that the learning of step 1 keeps getting reinforced.

    Just look around in your environment and spot some easily readable letters (i.e. with big and clear fonts) and read them aloud to your kid. Don't put a test - "lets see how many of these letters do you know". Instead just do it yourself and in no time your kid will follow. Even if he doesn't, his brain is reinforcing the information.

    I have observed that finding letters out of the blue is exciting for little kids. I have written in a previous post about how my daughter was excited when she realized for the first time that letters can be found on fridge too. And that’s why labels on big boxes, number plates, etc. work better than newspapers and books. One of my daughter's favourite game is finding letters on vehicles (number plates) and reading them aloud.

  3. Giving it a personal touch so that they become a part of their heart.

    Take a pencil/color/chalk and show them that you can make letters with it. Now ask them what would they like you to write. You can give some ideas to start with - "Shall I write PAPA? shall I write Teddy? or shall I write your best friend's name? Start with anything which is close to their hearts and notice the spark in their eyes!

    Experiment with different textures and tools like making letters with matchsticks, wires, threads, etc. The possibilities are endless. Once I made 'A' with a baby lotion on her hand while readying her up. Since then, she is hooked to it. She asks me to make different letters everyday and then wipes them off and rub them on her hand herself. Good for me!

  4. Introduce some use cases so that they get the idea that group of letters say something important and meaningful.

    You can start by putting labels on things like Door, Window, Kitchen Sink, Chair, Table, Stairs, Light Switch, etc. I made some for my daughter when she was around 2 years; in fact we made them together. My daughter watched me make the labels, followed me around when I put them up, and insisted on putting a cello tape piece by herself which I let her do. I was thinking that my daughter might tear them up soon but she did not for some 4-5 months. More interestingly, she loved to read aloud the letters of the labels every once in a while.

    John Holt shares an incidence and an important learning in 'How Children Learn', "Tommy wanted to write on labels himself. I said, "Fine!" and gave him the pen. I thought he would try to copy some of the words I had written but he just scribbled some marks over the paper which seemed a useless activity to me at that time. Only later did it occur to me that he had discovered an important thing in that activity -- that writing is a way of expressing one's thoughts, a kind of magic, silent speech. What difference did it make that I could not tell from his marks what he was trying to say? What counted was that he really felt he was saying something. It is this feeling about writing that so many children never get in school, and that makes all their work with both writing and reading seem so dead, artificial, and impersonal. If from the start they could think of writing as a way of saying something, and reading as a way of knowing what others are saying, they would write and read with much more interest and excitement."

  5. Story books

    Its just an extension of point 4 but so so important that I thought of putting it as a separate point. The benefits of reading aloud to children cannot be stressed enough. It would be great to have lots and lots of books for kids. You can get a membership of a kids library if you like. That way you can try out different kind of books and see which ones are liked by your kid. I had taken the membership of Thinkbox, Bangalore for some months and got quite good books which my daughter loved.

That's it. I hope it helps you. I would love to see your comments on what worked for you and your kid and what did not.

Category: parenting