There have been debates on Twitter about reading to children. There are those who say that reading to children helps them to learn to read whilst another group says it does not.
Let us examine this.
Children learn to love the sound of language before they even notice the existence of printed words on a page. Reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word.
My siblings and I were always treated to storytelling, by my late mother, when we went to bed. I would go to the extent of saying that was the highlight of the day. I still remember stories read to me, in Tamil, by my late mother more than 60 years ago.
The most obvious benefit to the child is better language skills. I learnt a lot of Tamil words through listening to stories read to me.
Parents hear all the time that it’s important to read to kids. But why exactly is that?
Reading exposes kids to new words and ways of using language. It also helps them learn general information about the world, which makes it easier for them to learn about new subjects once they get to school.
Hearing a story read aloud involves some level of comprehension on a child’s part. And comprehension is dependent on paying attention — in other words, listening skills.
Listening is a skill kids acquire before they can read themselves.
Can children learn to read by being read to? No!
However, if you sit your child on your lap or beside you on a chair while reading to him he will learn to read. This may be better achieved by you reading a line and asking him to read it after you. This is exactly how I got my first student to learn to read. Back then it took me more than 6 months of 3 hours per week to get him to read. Now, with so many tools available I take about 4 months of 2 hours a week to get kids to learn to read.
Teaching phonics helps but is not a necessity for getting a child to read. As mentioned in my blog the mind somehow figures out to read with or without phonics. A child figures out to read despite being taught phonemes with extraneous sounds. LINK
I think it is kind of silly for any educator to say not to use this or that if it helps to get a child to read. I use all the tools available – phonics, memorising Dolch words, context clues and figuring out new words using word families and words previously learnt.