Magazine article Work & Family Life

First Steps in Learning How to Read

Magazine article Work & Family Life

First Steps in Learning How to Read

Article excerpt

Parenting

How does pretend play help young children understand numbers and help them learn to read?

When adults read the word "dog" they connect the word with what a real dog is like. The word "dog" is a symbol that represents something else. Whether spoken or written as a set of squiggles, the word represents the reality of a dog wagging its tail and the feel of its furry coat. One of the important things children must do when they learn to read is to make the connection between the symbol and what it represents.

Pretend play helps children learn by giving them opportunities to use symbols.

When four-year-olds transform a cardboard tube into a telescope, turn some blocks on the floor into a train, or stir a bowl of soap suds and pretend to make a witches brew, they are using objects as symbols to represent something else.

-> When Jenny scribbles a `list"on apiece of paper, she is doing what she has observed her mom or dad do. It's not important for her to write real words or even "b" for bread or "m" for milk. That will all come later. What is important is that Jenny is observing the world around her and translating what she sees in her own terms.

-> When his mom teaches Luke which numbers to dial to get grandma or grandpa on the phone, Luke is learning number awareness. When Martha's father points out traffic signs on the way to child care, Martha is learning letter-and-word recognition. In other words, Luke and Martha are learning about numbers and letters in a way that has meaning for them.

Creating a learning environment

A desire to read and an interest in reading is encouraged when children see their parents reading as well as through the everyday activities of family life.

When a family comes together to eat dinner and talk about each person's day, children are learning the role of communication through words.

When parents and children spend time together each evening reading a story and sharing ideas about the pictures, children are learning more than what is in the story. They are learning that reading is a pleasurable experience-that words and books are an essential part of life.

Going to the library on a regular basis, becoming familiar with the children's section, making choices among a number of books and attending a "story hour" are all ways to set the stage for learning to read. …

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