By Melissa Schoorman
DEVELOPING SKILLS FROM AS YOUNG AS TWO
At what age should parents introduce a child to the process of learning to read? This is a perennial question asked by many families. Whilst some people believe that waiting until Prep is the right time to expose children to literature, it is my strong belief that immersion, a love of literature and exposure to the correct techniques and phonemic awareness, is crucial in ensuring a child is ready to develop the skills for reading from as young as two years of age.
SHORT AND SHARP LITERACY ACTIVITIES
This immersion can take many forms and at its core should remain play-based for our pre-school children. Understanding that a letter has a name and makes one or more sounds similarly to an animal, is a fundamental concept that, if grasped early, can assist a child’s success when reading. These and other related concepts such as rhyming, syllabification, phoneme identification, blending and segmenting are all short, sharp activities that our children can participate in and master with the correct scaffolding and intentional teaching.
EACH SKILL IS A PUZZLE PIECE
Reading in its simplest form, is a puzzle that requires a child to be given all the pieces in order to decode the English language. One skill is not more important than another, and, in fact, it is in the culmination and co-mastery of these skills that a child gains success.
The overall aim should not be to have a child reading books by the age of three; it should be to learn how to blend decodable words alongside those high frequency words (often referred to as sight words). Alongside this, children can then create an appreciation of how visuals (pictures) enhance the meaning that the author is attempting to convey. It is my firm belief that children should never be taught a reading skill in isolation, nor should hierarchical importance be placed on each skill; this then allows children to experience constant success.
PROVIDING RESOURCES TO FAMILIES
We can all attest to viewing our children as curious beings so why then when it comes to learning (even more specifically reading), do we feel like we cannot give them the tools that they need to be successful and force them to wait until Primary School?
My only answer to this question is that parents choose to wait until their child is in Prep so that they are taught using correct methods. I would encourage families who are interested in learning some of these techniques to enquire at your local service, to ensure that those children who are ready, are reading well before they commence formal schooling at five years old.
Melissa is the head of Wardle House and Deputy Principal at Toorak College.