The road to becoming literate.
Reading and writing are considered two of the most important skills needed to get by in life – arithmetic being the third – The 3 Rs, Reading Writing Arithmetic from an age ago.
Although this expression, the 3 Rs, has been relegated to the realms of the education basement, reading, writing and knowledge of numbers are still thought to be important in leading a successful life.
A common statement heard by parents and carers is,
‘They should be reading and writing, not playing!’
But, remember that in a child’s life, playing is learning and it’s hard work.
When should you start teaching your child about the language they need to use and the way in which to use it?
I have read information stating that the first step is, to learn the alphabet. I beg to differ.
Over the next few weeks I am going to be writing my own theory of the initial stages to becoming literate. These are the steps BEFORE the alphabet.
First Stage: Eye Contact and learning the signs
If you have experience of a new born baby you will undoubtedly remember those times when the baby looks intently at you, especially if you are the mummy.
Personally, I could have looked into my children’s eyes constantly. It was a power they had over me.
This is how they learn about you, your look, your facial expressions, your movement. This isn’t a one way experience, you will be learning the same things about your baby.
Watching your baby gives you an insight into his needs and the development of his personality and character traits.
I think this is a privilege to see.
During these early stages your baby will be learning to use his other senses, sound, touch, taste and smell.
Talk and sing to your baby all the time. It doesn’t really matter what you say, or what song you sing, whether you have a beautiful voice or, like me, a sort of screech!! Your baby will listen intently and become familiar with the sound of your voice and the words you say. Whether you tell a fairy tale or read the financial section of the newspaper, it is the sound of your voice that is important.
Have you ever tried something as simple as putting tissue paper inside a pillowcase and letting baby use those little legs to kick. When realisation strikes and he understands that the sound and the ‘feel’ are controlled by him is a huge learning milestone.
As far as I’m concerned these are the first steps to learning and especially language. Your baby needs to hear a vast array of vocabulary, big words, small words, words with different numbers of syllables.
Teaching children to say mamama or dadada is a process but when you hear them gabbling away in their own language which sounds nonsense, they are mimicking you. They are ‘talking’ in sentences and have a range of tones and tempos. This is a wonderful sound. When they look at you and string lots of sounds together in a babble, they are communicating in the way you have encouraged them.
This is a very powerful skill and it goes both ways; babies listening and parents/carers having the time to talk to their baby.
Put down your cell phone or ipad, look away from the screen and spend some quality time looking, listening and speaking to your baby to give them the best start in their learning life.
The first step to the 3Rs.