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For the Love of Reading

September, 2016
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img_9931Reading was always a big part of my childhood. My father would read to me every night and it became a ritual that went well into the 8th Grade. Reading was more than just learning new information or being transported to a new world through stories – it became a part of who I was and who I am today. My father’s diligent duty to come home and read to me after a long day at work helped develop a love for reading on my own and exposed me to new ideas and stories. The effects of this shared experience have stayed with me long after the last book my father read to me. I’ve come to realize, in all languages, that reading is a social experience of sharing information, providing new insights, and experiencing emotions through the eyes of the author. Reading as a social construct can be as intimate as a shared experience with just the author, or discussing (or enjoying) the book with friends and family. This type of experience can and should happen at all levels of reading – from pre-reading to total reading, and from birth until old age.

So how does the Montessori environment prepare a child to experience this type of reading? For starters, it provides the children with the building blocks that will lay the foundation for reading. As a child moves through language activities, they develop all of the essential tools needed for reading. From developing solid phonetic awareness (sandpaper letters) to creating words and understanding written words are thoughts made visible (movable alphabet), the child begins their journey to becoming literate. After countless times creating words through the movable alphabet, the child sees “cat,” “sat,” and “trip” in a picture book, connects it to the appropriate picture, and realizes they can make meaning out of these symbols. The Montessori environment provides an experience where all of a sudden a child realizes, and absolutely relishes, in the fact that they can read “cat” or “trip” on their own. They can connect the two meanings of each word to understand something in a larger context.

0j7a1260e589afe69cacThe different Montessori language activities provide scaffolding for the child’s reading development. We start by working on vocabulary enrichment: from having names for all our materials, to picture cards, children are immediately learning new words and names for objects. This is important, because a child may be able to put sounds together. If they do not know what it means then it’s a useless skill. Next we work on matching single phonetic words to pictures or objects, and then matching sentences to pictures (“the cat is on the mat” matches to a picture). This activity provides the child with the experience of using pictures to aid reading and develop endurance for reading short books. At the end of the day, if the child is not having fun or interested in doing these activities, it tells me one of two things: the child may not be ready for this activity or we need to develop a love for reading.

Reading should not be a chore or a dreaded task. It should be enjoyable and fulfilling. Pushing a child to read before they are ready may have the undesired effect of pushing the child away from reading. Every child moves at his or her own pace and to rush through the development of these fundamental skills would be an injustice to the child and their future as a reader. Reading is more than just a sense of accomplishment, it is finding the joy within what you’re reading and taking that joy into the world.

Tips for Fun Reading (For all languages – English and Mandarin):

 

Stock up on lots of different books in different genres (fiction*, non-fiction, poetry, fact books, wordless books, etc.)

Don’t forget poetry! The play on words in poetry is a great way to make reading fun (Shel Silverstein is a great Poet for children)

Buy a series of books with the same characters in each story. The familiarities of the characters help children connect with the story (Curious George, Frog and Toad, George and Martha).

As a special activity, bring your child to the bookstore and let them pick out a book to bring home! Giving your child the freedom to choose a book allows him/her to take ownership of his/her reading experience.

On the weekends or every day set aside ‘Reading Time’ where you and your children individually read books (Remember: reading is not just reading words, it can be looking at pictures). This provides a time for you to model reading behaviors and it shows your child reading is important to you and your family.

Incorporate your child’s interests into the books you buy for home (if your child loves planes or horses, buy books about planes or horses). This can encourage your child to look at the books on their own.

* When looking to buy fiction, it is important to have books that are based in reality – instead of buying a book about a puppy that has a new baby sister, buy a book about a girl or boy who has a new baby sister. Try and make it as relatable to your child’s life as possible.

 

By Eleanor Yee

Montessori Teacher at Montessori School of Shanghai

 

 

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