Tuesday, March 25, 2008

early intervention (my soapbox, again)

last friday my husband and i had dinner with friends who have a one year old daughter. just a few weeks past her one year old birthday, she toddled around after dinner, pulling her board books off her shelves in a playful request for us to read Sandra Boyton and other fun stories. her reading corner is complete with a miniature arm chair and she scooted herself into it and opened the pages of book after book, taking obvious delight in the pictures.

watching her i couldn't help mentally doing the 'concepts of print' test we give to first graders.

*knows front of book from back~ check +1
*knows top of book from bottom of book ~ check +1
*knows to turn pages in book from front to back ~ check +1
*knows to start looking at the pages from left to right ~ check +1
*shows a knowledge that print contains meaning ~ check +1

She's 1 year old and she already has 5 points on an 11 point test for first graders. And I don't think this is abnormal for children in the middle and upper classes. Can you imagine not reading to your one year old? Or not having a toddler know how to turn the pages of a book?

It's hard to believe that we get students in kindergarten and first grade who have no idea how to hold a book, no idea where to start from, or how the book works. With limited exposure to print they don't understand how books work, or that we read books to gain meaning, whether for information or for pleasure. How can we begin to teach them the ABCs if they don't have any understanding of where in their lives this will become important? Learning to read is hard enough when you have the desire to figure out what those pesky letters are saying.

Programs that give books to at-risk children are wonderful, but they only accomplish half the battle. I had a parent of a child who failed the concepts about print test tell me she didn't need anymore books in her house. They had tons of books! she said as she described the children's rooms, which yes, sounded like they were FULL of books.

But if no one reads the books to the children, or models what one does with a book, how do children know that books are not just pretty types of skinny blocks?
somehow we have to teach parents how to read with their children, even with their babies. giving them the books isn't enough. we have to help them buy into the importance of creating a reading life for their child.

my dream is to one day do this, i just haven't figured out how yet.


Blink said...

This is why Partners in Print can be so powerful. It teaches parents how to develop literacy. I once had a parent tell me she never let her daughter look at the pictures because she didn't want her to rely on them. Books and other resources were not lacking in this family. Her heart was in the right place. She just didn't know.

Jenny said...

As a parent of two children not yet school age, this has been in my mind a lot. My daughter will only be 4 when she begins kindergarten in the fall, but I know that she will be academically just fine (her motor skills still need a lot of development though!). I hate to think that so many kids don't have those same 'advantages' either because their parents don't know what to do or won't do it. It causes me physical pain.

organized chaos said...

I agree that Partners in Print is powerful, I just feel that sometimes it is to late. I want to find a way to reach out to parents when their babies are still young. In guided reading I always tell my young readers to read their books to their baby brothers and sisters for homework. We talk a little bit about how to show their baby the pictures and talk about the story. If only I could do that with their parents!

Anonymous said...

This site might help: http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/ld/pubs/readbunny/