Monday, March 27, 2006

Literacy skill for toddler?

Maybe we are too keen to transfer the literacy skill to Ashley, who is not even four. But who can blame us for trying too hard? Being literate is a critical survival skill in the modern world. When Ashley was just over two, we used to write a 'letter' to her every morning and slipped it through her room. Each letter would have a a big Chinese character in the centre. She enjoyed receiving a letter therefore was happy learning those characters. After she has learnt 20 to 30 words, we would randomly pick up some 'letters' to test her if she could recognise those characters. She usually got about 70% correct.

When she was three, Bonnie used to play Chinese reading cards with her. The cards are similar to our 'letters' - big Chinese characters in the middle. Ashley was able to recognise at least 30 of them. At a later stage, she was even able to put a few together to form a complete sentence. However, I feel that these activities did not create a context for her to read, i.e. the characters that she learnt did not create the flow of an idea like that in a story book. Therefore, she was only able to capture scattered concepts, not real reading.

In the last couple of weeks, she has developed an interest in words. She would point to words that she saw on a book, menu or road signs and asked us the meaning of those words. We would then spell the letters (which she has already recognised most of them), speak the word and explain the meaning to her. She seems to be genuine interested in learning to read.

Tonight, I was trying to make her start to read. So, when we had our bedtime story, I taught her a few words e.g. 'Who', 'You' and 'See', which appears on the front cover of a book, and asked her to memorize those words. Then while we were reading the book, I stopped each time when we came to the same words. Slowly, she was able to pick up those words and was able to start to read the book. I picked up another book where she could find those same words. She was very excited because she recognised those words. She is probably thinking that she can really pick up a book and start to read from now on. It is a tremendous step for her. I am thrilled.

One would probably ask, however, whether it is necessary for someone not even reach four to start to recognise words and read. To me, however, if he/she is really excited and happy, then why not? Once they have acquired the literacy skill, only the sky is the limit of their future development.

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