Literacy - Teaching Reading to Children at an Early

Children, by nature, are curious people. Questions abound as they move through life. At around the age of two a mother begins to hear the "why?" question. A wise mother will answer the question and allow for more. It is important to engage a child's curiosity and one of the best ways to do that is through reading books to your child. The greatest gift a parent can give their child is the gift of literacy - teaching their child to read at an early age and getting them on the road to a life of active and critical reading.

Preparing A Child For Scholastic Literacy

Scholastic literacy is a given, as they will receive the education and training they need in school to be able to understand the work that is given. They will learn to read in school, that's part of the curriculum, but as a parent, you have the added advantage (and so does your child) of starting the process at home, before your child ever goes to school. Preparing them for school can start with picture books, a story told in words and pictures. The combination of words and pictures makes an indelible impact, since both the words and the pictures contribute to the meaning of the story.  Even though they can't read the words, they remember what you've read and identify the pictures as being associated with a particular part of the story.

Picture Books Aren't Just For Little Ones

The saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words" is particularly valid in our society where we are bombarded daily with myriad images and pictures from the computer, television, DVDs and print media. Visual literacy is an expression that refers to the ability to understand and produce visual messages. By using picture books, visual literacy is encouraged as children think critically about how the images they see convey the meaning of the text they read. The concept is an excellent one that helps to develop critical thinking in children. The fact is, this type of process has gone beyond young children in primary school to older children in high school and adults in university.

Understanding Critical Literacy

Critical literacy is the "use of language in all of its forms, as in thinking, solving problems, or communicating". (Venezky 1982) In more general terms, critical literacy is an approach to reading that encourages the reader to become involved in the text, relating to it from his or her own position. Literacy is key to understanding the world, and critical literacy is the child understanding how he or she fits into that paradigm. Themes of confrontation, power, control, awareness, and political positions all figure into the equation.

The use of pictures books to establish critical literacy and visual literacy by teachers as they teach our children to read, is an important part of our children's development. It is also something you, as a parent, can do at home. Allowing a child to have his or her opinion of what is happening in the story, to be able to think about the cause and effects of the pictures and text, helps the child to deal with life outside of school and home in a more powerful way. He or she learns to question and think.

Wise Men Say...

We are admonished over and over again to read to our children, and reminded that books contain keys to life and living that can't be found elsewhere. Quotes abound by men of renown about the value of reading books to children. One that will sum up what we have talked about in this article was spoken by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Force yourself to reflect on what you read, paragraph by paragraph." By doing so, we are teaching our children to read critically, and as a result, giving them tools to be able to discern the world they live in.

Books your children will enjoy are easy to find. Lists of children's literature are available through the schools your children attend, at your local library, on the internet, and at the local book stores. Give the gift of literacy to your child at an early age. Teaching your children to read is one of the greatest things you can do for them.

I did it!
I did it!
Come and look
At what I've done!
I read a book!
When someone wrote it
Long ago
For me to read,
How did he know
That this was the book
I'd take from the shelf
And lie on the floor
And read by myself?
I really read it!
Just like that!
Word by word,
From first to last!
I'm sleeping with
This book in bed,
This first FIRST book
I've ever read!
~ David L. Harrison ~
(from Somebody Catch My Homework)

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