"Someone asked, where must the seed be sown to get the most fruit when it is grown? The Master heard as he turned and smiled. Go plant it for me in the heart of a child."
Many parents are anxious for their children to begin formal reading as soon as possible. Formal reading is a necessary process for success in life, but there are many phases of pre-reading readiness that need to be addressed before formal reading takes place in order to develop the total child. A child needs skills other than reading to meet success in school or homeschool.
Seeds of learning need to be planted early in order to give a child a good start in life. Learning begins at birth and babies quickly learn to use their senses to initiate the rudiments of pre-reading.
Start with Common Sense(s)
A child uses his ears to hear sounds and words, and gradually these sounds begin to have meaning for him as he recognizes familiar sounds. He then learns to distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar sounds. This is a beginning stage for oral language and reading as he progresses to associate the variations in sounds of the spoken language involving conversations.
Babies and young children use their eyes to recognize familiar and unfamiliar people, toys and other surroundings. They learn to associate likenesses and differences by distinguishing shapes, sizes and configurations of objects around them. These observations are necessary for children to learn to recognize the alphabet and words in order to read.
Children use their noses to learn to distinguish smells. A child has no problem recognizing his mother or father using his sense of smell. He easily detects the smell of kitchen aromas, his food, favorite blanket, bed sheets, cuddly toy, etc. These concepts aid in helping the child glean meaning from a printed page that contains descriptive smells.
The sense of taste even plays a part as his taste buds aid him to distinguish likes and dislikes of food. He can certainly recognize the taste of favorite foods such as milk, apples, peanut butter and jelly, etc. On the other hand, he may not like the taste of spinach, broccoli, or pickles. Personal preferences and associations denote that different sorts of patterns are being established just as letters in words have special patterns.
Therefore, the use of the senses plays a distinctive role in reading readiness. The sense of touch enables the child to distinguish the feel of different textures. Educators call this "tactile awareness." This is useful for children who best learn to recognize letters of the alphabet by feeling.
All of these sensual associations during the early years aid children in preparation for other experiences in life.
Different Learning Styles Use Different Senses
No two children are alike and they should not be compared to other children. Each child has his or own learning style. Some children are visual learners while others are primarily auditory or tactile / kinesthetic learners. A combination of all is ideal, but all of us have weaknesses and we need to use our strengths to strengthen our weaknesses. These factors need to be considered in teaching a child. The very young child learns best through meaningful play experiences. Too much structure will often cause a learning block or even behavior problems as well as frustration for both parent and child.
What Is Readiness?
Readiness is made up of building blocks that include skills in the following areas: (1) visual (2) auditory (3) language arts (4) creativity / art / music / dramatization (5) science / life skills (6) tactile (7) math / problem solving (8) fine motor (9) gross motor and (10) social / emotional. A balance of these 10 building blocks will help to ensure that the child has matured and developed the necessary skills to establish a good foundation for reading in school. At this stage of development most children are ready to begin formal reading. A deficit in one or more of these areas can cause learning problems.
Readiness is best accomplished or developed by exposing the young child to as many enriching developmental experiences as possible. Preliminary reading skills involve recognition and identification of the alphabet, awareness of the phonetic sounds of letters, awareness of beginning and ending sounds of words, awareness of short and long vowels, rhyming words, ability to recognize similar words, and the ability to reason and comprehend the meaning of words on a printed page. The last skill - comprehension - can be learned effortlessly as the child has stories read to him. Following a story thread in his own mind provides the background for understanding what he will read later on his own. So reading to your child is not just fun and a bonding experience - it's vital readiness instruction as well!
That is why pre-reading preparation with many enriching experiences is so important before the formal reading process begins, and why a "readiness" program incorporating the above skills should precede a formal academic kindergarten or first grade. Every child deserves a good start!