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learning children to read and write is it easy as ABC ?

first ARTICLE WRITTEN BY by Barbara Freedman-De Vito
Learning the alphabet and learning to read must be a piece of cake, right ? If nearly every six year old can master it, then it must be simple ... or is it ? The alphabet, and its use in written language, is one of the most astounding developments in human history.
The ability to share knowledge and information through writing has had an impact on every other human endeavor in history. For each new generation of children, reading is a bit of a miraculous accomplishment, which requires a sophisticated set of skills. To a young child, the written word is no more than seemingly random scribbles on a page.
For those squiggles and lines to fall into place and form recognizable letters, and for those letters to have specific names with predictably constant sounds, and, incredibly, for each sequence of letters to come together to create a unified whole - wow ! Successfully making that journey is one of the crowning achievements in any child's life. Learning to read means learning that written letters translate into spoken sounds. Those sounds represents known words. Those words conveys meanings - they signify real objects in the real world or they refer to concepts. "D" is the letter "dee." The letter "D" gives us the sound "dee." "D - O - G" equals "DOG,"
 perhaps some specific dog that the child knows and loves. For a child to unlock that secret is right up there with taking his or her first steps, and soon learning how to walk, and then run. From scribble, to symbol, to complete word with meaning in the physical world ! Once a child can read, new worlds of knowledge and pleasure open up, and a lifetime of learning and vicarious fictional experiences can begin. What a child reads will play a role in the kind of person that that child becomes: what she or he knows, believes, values, enjoys. It may contribute to the choice of a career or provide an avenue for lifelong entertainment. In the western industrialized world, education and literacy skills are sometimes taken for granted, but the reality is that learning to read, this most powerful of cognitive skills, cannot just happen by itself, and it is not a quick process.
 It takes time, and different children master it at different rates. Parents need not, however, just sit back and wait for it to happen, or leave the entire burden to the school system. They need not simply hope that their children will prove to be quick studies. There is plenty that parents can do to get their children off to a good start and to reinforce reading skills at every step of the way. In "Teaching Our Youngest," from the U.S. Department of Education, it is stated that "Children who enter kindergarten knowing many letter names tend to have an easier time learning to read than do children who have not learned these skills. In fact, it is unreasonable to believe that children will be able to read until they can recognize and name a number of letters.
To read, children recognize letters and know how to connect these individual letters and sometimes combinations of letters with the sounds of spoken words." This article provides some easy and practical tips for parents who want to enhance their children's liklihood of success, and to do so in ways that create effortless fun for their children. Learning does not need to be drudgery for parents or for children. It can, and should, be creative and enjoyable ! The trick is to work it into everyday situations, to make learning a spontaneous and natural part of everyday life.
 1. READ TO YOUR CHILDREN ! The more you read to your children, the more they learn that books are powerful magic. Alphabet letters, written words, and books tell us exciting stories. They can let us discover new worlds and they can teach us things we've never dreamed of. Let your children see the words on the page as you read them aloud. Your kids can then make the connection between the written words and the words you speak, long before they are able to read those words for themselves. Let them understand that there are coded meanings to decipher from that mysterious printed page.
According to the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, "At the beginning of kindergarten, children's reading skills and knowledge were related to their home literacy environment. Children from a 'literacy-rich' home environment (i.e., those who are read to, sung to, and told stories more frequently and those who have more children's books, records/audiotapes/CDs in the home) demonstrated higher reading knowledge and skills than other children. This relationship existed whether their families' income was above or below the federal poverty threshold." This effect continues once the children are in school. For example, government statistics reveal that "... children with rich literacy environments at home were more likely than other children to perform well in reading at the end of both kindergarten and 1st grade." Therefore, it's important to set aside a quiet sharing time every day, just for reading to your children.
Share picture books, share longer stories, and share online or CD-ROM picture stories. If children associate the written word with pleasurable experiences, both their learning AND their motivation to learn how to read will be enhanced.
 2. SING SONGS TO YOUR CHILDREN ! Sing simple songs to babies and very young children; teach songs to toddlers and preschoolers and older children. Help them tune into the rhythms and the rhymes, to the beauty of the sounds of words, spoken or sung. Try lullabies, familiar children's songs, chanted Mother Goose rhymes, even bouncy pop songs. You can also play finger games with rhyming jingles, both for the soothing sounds of the words and to help young fingers gain dexterity.
3. PLAY ALPHABET GAMES ! Help your children master the alphabet before they begin kindergarten or first grade. Help them associate letters with the sounds that they make, for the same government report confirms that "... children who had certain early literacy knowledge and skills (e.g. could recognize letters of the alphabet, recognize numbers and shapes, and understand the concept of the relative size of objects) when they entered kindergarten demonstrated higher reading proficiency in the spring of both kindergarten and 1st grade than children who did not have this knowledge and these skills."
In part 2 of this article, I'll be providing some starter ideas for helping your children learn the alphabet and to get a head start in ultimately learning how to read.
You can find a list of more great ideas for alphabet games in the alphabet section of Barbara Freedman-De Vito's online shop, along with her unique alphabet clothing, magnets, pillows and other inspiring alphabet items. She also produces her own original children's stories, including two alphabet stories with animated pictures, which are available on CDs. Visit her Baby Bird Productions shop at: http:// Barbara is an experienced teacher, author, professional storyteller and artist.


How in the world do you get your child to write? This is the battle cry of many parents. A lot of imagination, with a little bribery (or praise) is all you need to get your child writing. We'll supply the imagination. The praise and bribery is all up to you.

Grocery List: Enlist your child's help in making the grocery list. Walk around the kitchen, naming things you need from the store. Ask your child to write everything down. Your child can also suggest foods you might need from the store and he can add those, too.

Old Checks: If you've recently switched banks and have checks that need to be destroyed, first let your child play with them. Give him some envelopes and he can pretend to pay bills -- while getting him to do some writing. Of course, destroy the checks afterwards. If you do not have checks available, you can just give your child some blank pieces of paper and he can make his own checks.

Cards: If your child is interested in Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh cards, then give him some index cards cut in half and have him design his own cards. Encourage your child to give the characters names and special abilities on their cards.

Fictional Journal: Sometimes it is hard for children to write in a journal. What is there to write about? Instead of a standard journal, give your child a fictional journal. He or she can pretend to be anything they'd like to be and write a journal as that person. Your child could write from the perspective of an Astronaut discovering a new planet, Prince or Princess on an Adventure, Archaeologist finding a new species of Dinosaur, Famous Athlete, President of a Country, Passenger on the Titanic. Your child could write from the perspective something instead of someone, a mailbox, an animal, a pen. The possibilities are endless.

Letter-writing: Have your child write a letter to Santa, the Easter bunny, or the Tooth Fairy. Or, your child could write to their favorite athlete, fictional character, or movie star.

Alphabet Game: Take a piece of paper and write the letters A-Z in the left column. Then, choose a category from the following or make up one of your own. Vegetables, Fruits, Animals, Musical Instruments. For older children, the categories can be narrower and more difficult, like Countries, Characters in Literature, Presidents, etc. Set a timer and you and your child both list as many of the items in the category as you can for each letter. The trick at the end is that you have to cross off anything on your list that your child has listed. (for instance, if you both have "apple" for an "a" fruit, then the parent crosses theirs off.) Whoever has the most words wins.

Character Game: Tell your child to pick a character from a book or movie that he's familiar with, and you do the same. Then, ask several questions and you each write the answers to the questions on a piece of paper. When you've finished asking the questions, then have your child read the answers and try to guess who he was pretending to be. You do the same and see if your child can guess who you were. Whether you are pretending to be Peter Pan or Shrek, you and your child will have fun and your child won't even realize he's practicing his writing!

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