Every child can read... every child must!

BY Eugena Robinson

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

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This “every child” statement is a strong commitment made by the Ministry of Education as the ultimate goal for educating the nation's children. The goal is not just to read, so the term literacy, which encompasses a broader purpose, has captured the hearts and minds of those who teach and those who learn.

When the term literacy entered the classrooms, parents were frightened, and most of them for the very first time changed their attitude towards schooling. Presently, in our schools some educators have not fully realised that, even if the child can read, if he cannot express his thoughts in writing he is still handicapped.

In Jamaica, there are concerns about reading, especially among our children from disadvantaged homes. There are literacy strategies for early childhood and primary schools that may be employed to gain successful educational outcomes. These include building communication skills. Teachers should give children their undivided attention by listening to what they say. There should be opportunities for children to express themselves and given help to clarify what they want to say.

News time is an important period in early childhood to allow children to talk. Following talk, children should draw what may be called their news. The teacher then writes for the child what he says about his picture. It is amazing to listen to young children talk about their picture or any news they wish to relate. The teacher may also write for the child a short statement of what he says. The child usually remembers what he says, and this is the beginning of “Reading is talk written down.” It is amazing to watch young children trying to read what they know they have said. Children who are involved in this type of communication eventually read at an early stage. The children will each day write their news, some children will need help to spell each word correctly. Each child will now understand what my news is. Some of these children's news or their stories should be printed in books for class readers.

Every child must read begins with what each child says. Teachers continue to talk to their children then expect them to read and remember what was said to them. This is not the best approach in the classroom. Few bright children will remember what they copy.

A second strategy to develop early reading is to have the children create their own dictionary. This notebook should contain at least 26 pages; with each page alphabetically belonging to a letter corresponding to the page. The letter A is written by the teacher on the first page of each child's book. The teacher should ensure that each child has a book with all the pages to write words that are required.

Let's imagine a child wants to say, “Today is my mom's birthday,” or “My dog has six puppies,” but cannot spell all the words; for example, birthday. The child may know that the word birthday begins with letter sound B. He/she finds the B page in the dictionary and asks the teacher to write the word in the dictionary. The child then copies the word in a sentence. This child is now applying several skills in literacy.

Here is another example: Once a child asked me to write the word photo in his dictionary. He gave me the page opened at letter F. I called a student named Phillip and asked him to spell his name. Photo and Phillip begin with the F sound. He was not left confused. These infants could write their own news with a teacher's help, while teaching new skills as they arise. These children developed phonetic skills which they applied in their writing. At the end of their time in infant school, they go to junior school as independent learners.

Children who experience real success are often the early achievers. Teachers too contribute to the illiteracy rate in schools. They are always writing for their class. Children develop this dependency to copy, but what has been disappointing is that good penmanship that existed over the years has disappeared. Children no longer learn how to listen. Every morning most teachers 'head up' the board and students never get an opportunity to think with their brains. Teachers in classrooms are writing too much for their classes. Give them a chance to think.

Not all children have an ideal language environment. Some are ignored when they make sounds or even when they cry. Some are spoken to only a little or do not have their questions answered. Some only hear the dialect. Some come from families in which adults do not talk a great deal. Then they must be encouraged to learn written language. Do not ignore the children when they are writing and they ask: “How do you spell...?”

Every child must read!

r_eugena@yahoo.com


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