Future Readers are Children Who Play

Recently, I was in an early head start site and I observed a toddler, dressed as a doctor, cooking at the play stove, while nursing a baby doll. The teacher asked if the child was a chef and the girl answered, she was a “cooker.” The teacher laughed and said, that’s right you are a doctor, mother, chef. While the girl played and acted out routines she saw when she was at home or with her family in the world, her teacher taught her new vocabulary to describe what was happening.

This is a sight you don’t often see in schools anymore. Why is that and how is it harming the future generations?

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The Challenge

Outcomes based learning has hurt play, particularly in early learning classrooms. Teachers are required to prove skills learned and objectives the children have met. Documentation has taken precedence over the process of learning, creating an environment where children regurgitate information without ever knowing how to process, internalize and comprehend what they have heard.

What happened?

Based from an article retrieved on EBSCOhost

Ready or Not, Play or Not: Next Steps for Sociodramatic Play and the Early Literacy Curriculum: A Theoretical perspective. Dr. Tarsha Bluiett. Reading Improvement, Fall 2018. Volume 55:3, 83-88.

No Child Left Behind, initiated by the Bush administration, while with good intentions, has created an atmosphere where children are continually left behind because teachers are forced to instruct and teach at levels the early learners aren’t ready for.

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Research Shows

Beginning with Maria Montessori in the early 1900’s research has repeatedly shown, that play is the work of learning. Meaningful work happens through an environment rich with opportunities for creative play,  that will not always inspire children to become lifelong learners, but also aids in the development of the oral, aural and visual skills a child needs in order to make the jump from pre-literacy to emergent reader and finally into independent reader.

Dramatic play encourages the development of language, emotional literacy, cooperation with peers, problem solving and moving from internal thought to externalization of thoughts and back to deeper thinking.

Play, not instruction, fosters this connection.

Social interactions through play provide meaningful ways for children to gain important life and self-care skills and emotional learning all while the imitate and reproduce the world they see around them in the safety of the classroom.

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What does this mean for parents of pre-literate children?

  • Don’t overschedule. Keep adult led, organized activities to a minimum if at all in the early years of life.
  • Make a play friendly space. Kids do not need high tech gadgets or expensive toys. Create a home that allows for exploration of the world indoors and outside.
  • Child led. Play shouldn’t be forced, but directed by the child.
  • Adults need to remember how to play. When was the last time you played? Or pretended to be someone else? Keep in mind that when our children play, they are working hard at learning. Play as we age becomes a practice in creativity that will atrophy if we don’t practice. While our kids play to learn, we also play to create.
  • Gives you time to talk with your child. No need to give commands or directions in play. Let your child be the parent, or the doctor. Find ways to introduce words they may not know naturally in the conversation of play.

Play isn’t only for recess

By creating literacy rich and meaningful play areas pre-literate children build the oral, vocabulary and systems they will use all throughout their life. So put away the flash cards and resist signing them up for another enrichment program. Allow your child the gift of time for play and watch them soar.

Play IS the foundation of school success

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For Further information

 

Check out these websites

The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds
Kenneth R. Ginsburg and the Committee on Communications, and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health

Play is the Work of the Child Maria Montessori

Building Readers begins at home

I recently attended a workshop from a local literacy organization about tools and strategies to help struggling readers. The focus was on how to identify what reading problem the child, teen, or adult reader faced and strategies to build more confident readers.

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The workshop fascinated me, because as a librarian, not a teacher, I had never really thought about fluency and decoding and how phonics were taught to new and struggling readers. I gained a lot of knowledge in the workshop about the mechanics of learning to read that I will find ways to implement in future storytimes.

I was left, though, with a question

How do parents of “pre-literate” children participate in the literacy life of their child to mitigate future reading problems.

As any good librarian does, I turned to my local library’s research databases. In my search, I found an article that, although meant for kindergarten and first grade teachers and parents of this age group, I began to see how libraries, literacy organizations, and preschools can partner with parents to build a routine, love, and background in reading.

The Research

A 3-Year Study of a School-Based Parental Involvement Program in Early Literacy. Susan Ann Crosby, Timothy Rasinski, Nancy Padak, and Kasim Yildirim. The Journal of Educational Research, 108:165-172, 2015. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier.

The research looked at the impact of parental involvement in student literacy achievement and the sustainability of a program over the course of 3- years. The program was modified each year and what the researchers found at this one school where the program was implemented is the children and parent’s who had the highest participation in the weekly program had the highest increase of Word Accuracy per minute when tested at the beginning and end of the year. And in Kindergarteners the researchers noted the children knew more sight words.

All it took to improve reading fluency was 2, 10 minute sessions of parent and child reading per week.

The program was simple. Each week a short poem or rhyme was sent home. The parents were to, over the course of the week, practice the reading two days. In particular the parents read the passage several times to the child while pointing out the words. Then the parent and child read the passage together several times, while the parent pointed to the text. Lastly, the child would read the passage several times and point out the text while reading. Afterwards the parent and child played word games using unique words from the text in a variety of ways.

Parent reads poem several times while following the text with her finger

  • Parent and child read poem together several times while following text with finger
  • Child reads poem several times to parent while the child points to words
  • As the program developed there was more emphasis on the program with the poem of the week being displayed in the school and assessment logs submitted every 9 weeks. All it took was two days a week of 10-15 minute sessions between parent and child for the student to experience literacy improvement.

What does this mean for parents of children with young children?

  • Repetition is key. Using poetry and rhymes with our youngest listeners will not only help early literacy skills develop before the child becomes an emergent reader, the familiarity, routine and safe space the reading activity takes place encourages a child to bond with reading.
  • Mini-reading breaks have huge impact. The study only required 10-15 minutes twice a week. Most families can find time in between activities or bedtime to fit in reading rhymes or poems.
  • Reading and highlighting the words are key. We can’t just read to our children, we have to show them that what we say relates to the markings on the page. Think of it as prepping your child’s “reading surface.”
  • Parent involvement is critical. Teachers and librarians aren’t miracle makers. All they do is guide parents and children in a learning direction. The magic happens at home and the school day is practice.

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What are 3 steps you can take today to make a difference in your child’s future reading life?

  • Choose poetry and rhymes to mix up your reading life. Act out the poems or rhymes. Use silly voices. There are a lot of ways to do repeat readings without the experience boring you or your child.
  • Know what books your child is hearing at school and pick them up from your local library. Find ways to explore the themes and ideas in the book by taking “field trips” together to build your child’s context or background knowledge for the book.
  • Play word games. As the researchers saw, when the parents followed up readings by using the new words in the book in their everyday conversation, there was a larger impact on achievement. See how many times you can use a new word in conversation and link it back to the poem you read. Or play a rhyming game by creating a list of rhyming words.

Reading should never be a chore but a bonding experience between parent and child

Building future readers begins at home in ways that don’t have to feel like a chore for either parent or child. By incorporating short spurts of reading throughout the week, your child will be even more ready to emerge as a reader when they enter kindergarten.

Book Ideas to try at home