Why Reading is so Great

www.amazon.co.ukJim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook.
Topic:
Helping children become avid readers.
Issues: How reading aloud awakens children’s imagination and improves language skills; the rewards and importance of reading aloud to kids; the latest research about reading–including the good and bad news about digital learning.

Picture books can boost your child’s vocabulary

Interesting story reported by the Indo-Asian News Service. A study has claimed books having photographs but no words prove ideal for building children’s language skills. And, the parents can help their kids the best if they used such books for the bedtime story.

According to experts, parents turning to wordless storybooks end up spending time discussing the pictures and answering their toddler’s questions — exposing them to complicated words, Daily Mail reported.

Psychologists from the University of Waterloo, Canada, looked at 25 mothers as they read their children a set of bedtime stories.

They found the mothers used more advanced language when they picked up a picture book compared to a book with words.

Study author Daniela O’Neill said: “Too often parents will dismiss picture storybooks, especially when they are wordless, as not real reading or just for fun.

“But these findings show that reading picture storybooks with kids exposes them to the kind of talk that is really important for children to hear.”

O’Neill said while reading the picture story, “we would hear mums say things such as ‘where do you think the squirrel is going to go?’ or ‘we saw a squirrel this morning in the backyard’.”
“But we didn’t hear this kind of complex talk as often with vocabulary books, where mentioning just the name of the animal, for example, was more common.”
However, O’Neill also said books of all kinds could build children’s language and literacy skills, “but they do so perhaps in different ways”.

The article originally appeared here.

Non-Stop Chatterbox

I’ve got three kids. The middle one, who’s five, starts chattering the second she wakes up and doesn’t close her mouth until she’s asleep. On one hand, I love to hear her talk and have conversations about “Why this?” and “Why that?” But she’s exhausting me and I feel like my other children aren’t getting the attention they need because the 5-year-old is constantly interrupting. What can I do?

When babies are born, we look forward to all of their "firsts." First smile, first laugh, first steps, first words. Especially with our first baby, these are milestones that make us giddy with anticipation and cause us to break out the camcorder at every turn.

Then they start rolling . and walking . and talking – and we wonder, "What was I thinking??"

Infants get going rolling, then crawling and we are amazed at how quickly they get good at it and soon are getting from point A to point B in little more than a blink of an eye. Toddlers start walking sometimes just as an aside to running and seemingly thrill at their new found ability to run in the "wrong" direction every time. But we understand that though these may try our patience and challenge our creative problem solving skills at times that, "This too shall pass".

Talking is a whole different ball game. Or is it?

We wait so patiently for their first coherent words, regale friends and co-workers with tales of our baby’s babblings, pride ourselves in how well and early she’s speaking in full sentences. And then it starts – the flip switches on and there’s no off button in sight. And yes it can be exhausting.

But there’s good news! Young children learn at lightening speed with every sense available to them. This is such a good language learning time for them that adding a second language is a possibility. And reading to themselves is close at hand. All good things.

So how to embrace the chatter of this age group without losing your cool? And how do you ensure that the other members of the family get a word in edgewise meanwhile? Here are some ideas:

  • Learn to ask questions that require more than a "yes" or "no" answer. Questions that start with how many? when?, and what if? Are good places to start. How many nuts were in that bag that just spilled? When do you think the apples will be ready to pick? What if we didn’t do the dishes and take out the trash?
  • Take turns (literally at first) answering questions like these … include all of your children. This teaches the art of dialog rather than monologue.
  • Look for projects that the whole family can enjoy together. this way the project is the center of attention and not one child in particular.
  • Schedule reading times and quiet times – children this age are more than capable of entertaining themselves for short periods of time without getting into trouble. This gives everyone in the house a much-needed moment to recharge and regroup. Often a chatty child is a tired child and naps are not uncommon once they slow down.
  • Be as good a listener as you want your child to be. Children learn their talking and listening habits from us just as they do anything else, through observation and imitation. The better listeners we can be, the better they will ultimately be also.

Learning to talk and have co-operative conversations are important stepping-stones to reading. Once she’s reading, you’ll have some of that quiet thinking time of your own (perhaps a dim memory at this point) back. Meanwhile, find ways to appreciate that she does want to talk to you . ’cause this too shall pass . and be inclusive of everyone in the family.

Want smarter kids? Have them play with dad.

One of the most classically dad things is playing–physically–with the kids. Now along comes another study that proves that imaginative play with dad is good for kids’s brains too. When you encourage your children’s imagination, their vocabularies are larger and they do better in math.

What’s unique about this particular study, which was done at Utah State University, is that the researchers went to the trouble of, gasp, including dads. Most previous play studies had looked at mom-child interactions.

So how do you boost the amount of imaginative play? Start by encouraging make believe and fantasy. Then, when your reading stories, don’t be shy about acting out some parts or talking about what’s happening in the illustrations or why particular characters are doing what they’re doing. Plopping your kids in front of the TV (or even watching silently with them) or reading books straight through from beginning to end without any commentary won’t help.

A bit more detail on the study here:

http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=19524630&title=study-shows-playtime-with-both-parents-crucial-to-child-development&s_cid=queue-6

 

Why Do Kids Ask “Why”?

Dear Mr. Dad: For the past few months my son, who is almost four, has been going through the “why” phase—constantly asking questions like, “Why is sky blue?” and “Why can’t dogs sing?” Most of the time I don’t know what to tell him or how to make him stop. Any advice?

A: I’m sure just about every parent who’s reading this is nodding his or her head. This phenomenon is so common that you could safely add it to the short list of life’s guarantees—right after death and taxes and probably just before the sun rising every morning. So my first suggestion is to stop trying to make your son ask fewer questions. Judging from his age and the questions you quoted, your son doesn’t seem exceptionally or unusually inquisitive.

Starting at about three, children really start to focus on the world around them and try to explore every little bit of it. Plus, he’s now much more able to actually understand what’s going on. He’s fascinated by the things work and can’t get enough of cause and effect. At the same time, his language skills are blossoming. Combine that insatiable curiosity with an exploding vocabulary, and you’ve got a never-ending and sometimes annoying stream of questions.

But what your son doesn’t have right now, is the capacity to tell the difference between questions that are reasonable and those that aren’t. Come to think of it, that’s a distinction that eludes many adults too. So when the dog barks instead of singing, your son wants to know why. Frankly, I do too.

A lot of animals are born prewired with the ability to walk, slither, hop, eat, hide, and more. But humans aren’t. Yes, we’re born with some basic reflexes, but for they generally disappear within a few months. From there on, we’ve got to learn everything from scratch, one step at a time. And as exhausting as it is for you, that’s exactly what your little boy is doing.

So how should you handle all these questions? To start with, don’t ignore them. The good news is that most questions four-year-olds ask aren’t exactly rocket science. Give the best, most complete—and, of course, age appropriate—answer you can (if, for example, your son asks where he came from, “Chicago” could be a better answer than a lengthy explanation of the birds and bees).

If you don’t know an answer, it’s perfectly fine to say so. But don’t just leave it at that. Suggest some ways that you and he could discover the answer together. Go to the library and check out some books that might provide the information you need. He’s too young for Internet searches, but that’ll be coming sooner than you think. Or go to the zoo, the museum, the grocery store, or the nearest Ferrari dealer.

When you listen carefully to your child’s questions and you patiently answer them (or help him find the answers), you’re doing two very important things. First, you’re nurturing his sense of curiosity, which is a critical step in the learning process. Science, literature, and just about everything else couldn’t exist if people hadn’t been curious enough to ask, “Gee, I wonder what would happen if I….” Second, you’re laying the foundation for good and open communication between the two of you. And, as he gets older, knowing that you take his questions seriously will be proof that he can turn to you with any problems. Whether he actually does that is a different story. But at least, deep down inside, he’ll know.