HAVING read Natalie Wexler’s article “How to show kids the joy of reading” (https://bit.ly/2NlKEIJ) and combined with my experience as a mother of three children and a teacher for more than 20 years, I thought I would share some tips on teaching young children to read.
A child’s ability to understand text will depend on many factors, and one of the most important is his/her familiarity with a topic. Although the focus of a reading class at pre-school and primary levels is on learning to read (decode word, etc.), we must also be aware that part of that early process involves exposing these pupils to knowledge of the world.
One of the ways teachers can accomplish this is by sticking to the same topic for days or weeks. This is because related words and concepts that are taught repeatedly will stick in their memory.
By exposing pupils to as much knowledge as we can in school, we are giving them lots of background knowledge that will help them to absorb, retain and analyse new information in their reading materials faster.
However, we are also aware that children from poor and working class families may come with lesser knowledge and also know fewer words compared to their peers whose parents are more educated and use more sophisticated words at home.
Teachers can provide on-the-spot knowledge sharing upon noticing that their pupils do not understand the topic they are dealing with. However, unless the topic is reinforced over a number of hours or weeks, it is unlikely to be retained in the pupil’s long-term memory.
In a nutshell, what I am trying to share with fellow parents and language teachers here is never to underestimate the importance of knowledge. The process of trying to understand the text at hand will be much faster for pupils if they have some background knowledge of it.
Yes, there is no one right way of doing things but basic understanding of the pertinent factor that can help children or students to read well must be there, and that is knowledge of the world. Expose them to as much knowledge as we possibly can, as this will carry them a long way.
DR JANE CHEOK
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