Last weekend, I was asked to talk at a parenting workshop for parents of kindergarteners. With both my children all teenagers now, it had been years since I was in the company of young parents—an experience I found to be refreshing.
Truth be told, my husband Mike and I enjoyed every moment while our own kids were growing up as preschoolers. Life was so simple then. Every weekend morning started off with all four of us squeezing ourselves like sardines on the bed. Then off we’d spend weekends either at the poolside or watching our favorite movies on DVD. Each trip to a new destination was always a memorable one—even it was just a calesa ride around Luneta or fishing at the Greenhills pond. No matter how trivial those times were, we always shared so many genuine laughs together.
But if there is one thing we did right, it was teaching our children to love books. I realized then that my day job in teaching did make me quite aware of what we needed to imbue in our kids early on. In many ways, going through so much research on child development did come in handy for Mike and I. For many parents it may help to know that the one critical factor most often associated with school success is the child’s reading ability. These days, even entry into college is mostly assessed by acceptable standards of critical reading ability more than any other factor.
Hence, last weekend, I shared with a very enthusiastic group of parents what research has shown to be essential ingredients in making avid readers out of young children.
First, talk and listen to them. The basics of learning language starts off with talk. As they get older, infants and toddlers realize that language carries meaning first in spoken form and then in its written form later.
Second, say silly tongue twisters and sing nursery rhymes. As you play with rhymes and rhythmic lines and poems, your child will begin to acquire an appreciation of sound called “phonological awareness.” In the end, these are the same sounds they will need to begin blending letters put together in simple words.
Third, trace and play with letters. Whether it’s playing with your child in the sand, tracing letters on a cereal box, or scribbling letters of his name, your child will acquire the basic understanding of written letters.
Fourth, point out print in their environment—from labels on boxes, billboard signs, and every word that catches their attention. Then too, read aloud to your little one. For years, I would read my kids’ favorite book over and over and over again, night after night even though I’d be so tired to do so. To this day, both my kids remember their favorite book and have kept it safely tucked in their bookshelf.
Then, last but not the least, and what we think worked best, was we showed our kids that we loved reading ourselves. When our eldest son, Santi was about four years old, his Dad and I both agreed that we’d turn off the TV at nine o’clock each evening and begin reading. As we did this, our little one would also grab a book by his bedside and pretend to read it aloud himself. A decade since then, we still enjoy quiet evenings or vacations where we all find ourselves immersed in our favorite book.
I guess if there is one thing I hope parents with young kids will remember, it’s that the child’s first teachers will always be dad and mom. And if every parent makes every “teachable moment” delightful, then learning wouldn’t be so wearisome and boring for young children in the end.