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2. Reading - How Your Child Progresses

by Aruna Raghavan

Last week we began with a very simple reading program. We continue with it this week. But first :

When we found that Nirupama could read effortlessly, we began with her writing. We found a miracle : she made no mistakes in her spelling. We took on children who had 'spelling problems', and they began to do well too. Why? The answer lay in the method.

Doman is not concerned about which language is taught. Heis concerned with training and honing the skills of reading. The eye and the ear have to be perfected. The eye has to learn to distingush one word from another. That is what reading is all about. The ear has to learn to distinguish sounds and that is what hearing is all about.

To a two year old, the word on a card is like a picture. The word is registered as a whole. Even as she distinguishes the face of the mother from the father'sby seeing the whole, so too does she perceive the word. As the eye moves towards perfection, it 'photographs' words; as the ear moves towards perfection, it 'records' sounds. And memory, which is the prerogative of the brain, works to recall all past words and sounds in unison. The child is moving towards being a perfect reader.The eye, which has photographed the word, slowly learns to see individual characters within. And the mind's eye can visualise the series of letters in perfect order. Spelling is not such a difficult proposition any more.

Children who spell incorrectly do so because the brain has not been fed the letters in perfect sequence. Erroneous message has been recorded and the brain sends out the recorded message. The correction has to be made in the way the eye sees the word. So, writing a word large, clear and bold will enable the child read it easily. The eye sends the right message, the brain records correctly and at the time of recall too the spelling is correct.

Let's take an exercise. Call any child who has problems spelling. Choose any word that is less than 6 letters at first, until you and the child are more 'professional'.Now cover the difficult word in the text with your finger. She is not to call out the letters, not even lip read. She must only look carefully. Say that you will show her the word three times. At the end she should try and recall the sequence. Then start.If at the first try she goes through that's great. If not show her three more times. She will get it right. This is training the eye to 'see'. Most teachers and sub editors so train themselves that their eyes hit only incorrectly spelt words. Every child can be taught to use their eyes to that perfection.

To train successfully : be relaxed, do it as fun and the child will learn. You could start with a modest five word a day until a day arrives when her eye will register the individual characters as well as the whole word simultaneously. Try it out on yourself with any language where you are unfamiliar with the script. ( I can only sympathise if you are slower than your kid !)

Last week we began with a very simple reading program. The words were mother, father, kiss, milk and tata. Of all the words, your child would have got tata first. That's the most interesting word in the set. It creates an image of fun, even a prospect of fun. It must have been an extremely exhilarating experience watching your child identify that word from all the others. To reiterate, that is what reading is all about : to distinguish one word from another.

So, obviously, we have to ensure that we show cards that have

1. words that look and sound different.
2. words thatare known, familiar
3. words that evoke an image of fun

To Nuran, whose eyes are not yet trained to distinguish words and sounds it is best we do not show words that look or sound alike. To showNuran cards like cat, sat, mat, pat, bat, fatwould be disastrous. The reason : they all look alike; they all sound alike. If she feels even slightly confused, she can feel dejected enoughto respond by walking away or misbehaving. However cards that do not look / sound alike gives the untrained eye and ear a fair chance. Hippopotamus, tiger, kookaburra, ostrich and flamingo do not look alike; they bring a response from her.

It is always best that Nuran knows a word in context before she is shown the card. If she does not know an ostrich, it is best she is shown pictures of ostrich, knows that it is a non flying bird in Africa before she is shown the word card 'ostrich'. Unfamiliar words leave children cold and inattentive.

Choose words that are fun. Since at the early stages we are attempting to train the eye and the ear, it is best that we choose 'fun' over 'necessary'. It is always more interesting to read ice cream, juice, biscuits, chocolates, cake,Sachin, Ajay, Rahul, Saurav, and Robin than to read door, house, broom or building. That can come a few weeks down the line when Nuran has come to anticipate and enjoy her sessions with you.

How often has Nuran run from the kitchen to the living room when the commercials begin? In fact, she confines her television viewing to commercials. The commercials are short and quick yet she knows them all,even sings the jingles. Your sessions with Nuran should be so. Short, quick and fun. First you speak for a few minutes about what you are going to show her,then show the cards.

How does one call the words? With enthusiasm and vigour. Remember, to you it may be quite simple but to Nuran, the words are new.They should evoke a love for reading and keep the light of sense of discovery burning. Do not take time betweencards, do not put on such expression on the face that it distracts the child. The expression should be in the voice alone. However, if Nuran talks or repeats your information as you show the cards, say that she is bright and a wow! But do not allow for too much distraction. One of the fastest ways to encourage concentration is to have two bags, one yours and one hers. Say that the faster she learns the words, the fasterher bag will be full. 'Her' cards she can keep andteach her stuffed toys. We have known it to work like magic.

Last week we ran a trial successfully.

Now we can launch on a complete reading program.

Select 5 words that may be easily related to each other.

Make 5 such sets. So, you will have a total of 25.

Make sure that these are words that you have talked about in stories, games, or other context.

Show the words at the rate of one second per card – A session of say 30 seconds.

Repeat this process three times in a day for seven days.

What should bethe first words?

Each child's experience and environment is different so it would be impossible to make an exhaustive list. But here are some sets that have proved successful every time.

For the below one year : milk, juice, water, oil, bath, soap,laugh, tickle, look, cow, dog, cat, car, names of the members of the family, parts of the body, things in the house.

For the one year plus, other than what is shown the babes we did:
. car, truck, autorickshaws, airplane, ship, bus
. common birds, animals
. tree, plant, flower,[individual names would be preferable]
. beach, sea, sand, water, salt, waves, breeze, cool, shells, boats, fish
. mountain, valley, high, cold, snow, pine, fir, meadows, waterfalls, stream
. shop, market, hospital, station, bus stop, airport, dock
. sky, cloud, stars, moon, sun
. interesting verbs including zoom, pitter patter, chirp, shine, sail, fly, bang, fall, grow,
. adjectives including wonderful, beautiful, fascinating, lovely, noisy, majestic, soft, fat, prickly, pink, blue...

The list is, of course , inexhaustible. Each of the above group is associative so it should be easy to create five sets of five cards.

If your child is familiar with all the words below, your sets could possibly be :
Set 1 : hands, legs, eye, tummy, fingers.
Set 2 : car, truck, autorickshaw, ship, airplane
Set 3:ice cream, chocolate, cake, biscuits, juice
Set 4:long, fat, noisy, big, cool
Set 5:zoom, run, yum yum, fly,sail

As with the first set, follow the precaution ofcentering your word, use red flat marker pens, print it [do not write in cursive], show one card a second and place each card on top of another so that no two cards are visible at the same time. Show the cards fast, with enthusiasm, three times a day,for a week. Each time you complete showing a set change the order of the cards at random. This will ensure that your tot has to look at the cards each time. Or your tot is quite capable of going by the sound alone without caring to look too!

You will find by the end of the week your child will know some of the cards very well. You can then go on to the next stage which we shall deal with next week. Until then, have a lovely time with your baby!

One ofthe greatest concerns amongst parents and teachers, employers and employees is the growing lack of what might be termed 'general knowledge'. That includes not only whatappears in the yearly 'Manorama', but also common knowledge. Though school subjects are geared to acquire such knowledge,breaking subjects and topics, not showing their inter relation has led to an increasing incapacity to understand thatall that is taught in school is only about the world and nothing more!
Ultimately, as with everything else, it is the how rather than the what that makes the difference. In this series we are going to see how we could incorporate as many subjects and topics and teach a child who might be one year up. For this week, we begin with map work.

Make a large map of India, with only the outline of states. Do not write or mark the states or cities. Colour the map in pleasing shades. Begin by colouring Madhya Pradesh, Assam blue. Since these two states have the most neighbours, it would make it easier to blend colours of the other states. Also remember not to colour the coastal states blue as that would confuse the child.

Board it so that it does not bend and hang it like a calendar.

Hang it where young Arjun can see it very often.

How to teach

Day 1 : Pick him up and show him the map and say "India" 7 or 8 times. Then ask him where the India map is. If he shows you then you know he knows.

Day 2 :
Step 1: Again show him the India map.
Step 2 : Touch each state as you call out the names. Show him Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Assam. Obviously, we have chosen four states from four directions so that Arjun cannot confuse the states. Pick him up and call out the four states 2 or 3 times; after 15mts say the same 4 states 2 or 3 times. Then, through out the day, whenever you are passing the map, call out the names. Remember to touch the states as you are calling. Proceed to step 3 after you are confident that he knows all the names and locations.
Step 3 : Now ask him to touch the states with you as you call out the names. He will enjoy it.

Day 3 : Step 1: Touch each state with his hand as you call out the states that you have already taught.Now add Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Nagaland.. Repeat Step 2 and 3 as above.

Day 4 : Revise all that you did on day 2 and 3 . Add Punjab, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Meghalaya. Repeat steps 2 and 3 above.

Day 5 : Consolidate all that you have done. Don't teach anything new.

Day 6: Go on to 4 more new states.
Remember to choose one state from north, south, east and west. This way within two weeks, you would have completed the entire map. If you find he is able to point out the right states, then you may increase to 5 states. But the new states that are being taughtshould be as far from each other as possible. Also do not call out the states in the same order always; that will take away the fun in learning.

Now, while you are doing the map with your baby, you could begin a large picture collection of monuments, birds, animals, leaders, fruits, vegetables, flowers, sea animals, insects. Good, large and clear pictures are available in the 'Keep busy' series and the 'Navneet' series available at the Higginbothams and Fountainhead at Chennai. You will need two of each as when you cut a picture on one page, you will lose the picture on the other side. We shall use these materials as your child learns each state. If you could find the same pictures in finger nail size it would be most helpful. If not, you could draw as much as you can. And those of you who do not draw well, do not worry about your drawing. Your child will never laugh at your work. For him everything you do is the best. And since he appreciates it you will find a miracle happening : your drawing will get good and you will learn that unconditional appreciation improves output. That will be the best lesson that you'll learn from your child!!

So, until next week, happy teaching!

Week 2
One of the most interesting forms of teaching is story telling. Why should we tell stories? Stories require the child to understand language in a sequence. Sequence listening ensures concentrated listening. And, if we could narrate a story for everything we teach, the child will certainly remember it. To a one year old, what stories are interesting? Obviously stories that have something to do with himself, mother, father, grandfather, food or animals! How long should they be? Not more than 5 to 7 sentences. How should they be told? With a lot of fun and laughter. Where should your child be when you tell a story? Preferably on your lap; other choice areas are garden, on the swing or in the bathtub.So, here's a story for your child.

Arjun loves apples. Mother cuts the apple. Mother gives Arjun. Arjun eats the apple. Arjun is happy. Arjun kisses Mother.

If this story is accompanied by the right actions such as really giving Arjun an apple, or showing him a picture, pretending to feed him, but hugging him each time anyway, you will find that he will come to anticipate the next words and actions. If you repeat the story often he will even call out his favourite words. Speech comes faster to children who hear the same words often.

Last week, we talked of showing him the map of India.

The monument cards.

I have tried to give you the same monuments in two sizes. Take the big size first. Example the Taj Mahal. Teach Arjun the Taj exactly as you teach other G.K. cards. When he knows it perfectly, take the small size Taj and put it on the India map where Agra is. Then say,
Day 1: "See Arjun, Taj is in India."
Day 2: Taj Mahal is in Agra. 
Day 3: Taj Mahal is in Agra, and Agra is in Uttar Pradesh.

Do this with all the other monuments. Do 10 G.K. cards as usual, but when you paste the monuments stick, only one a day. Where I have not been able to get the monuments I have given special birds/ animals/ people of a state. This way, Arjun will know something special about each state.

The World map

In this case, it is enough to teach Arjun the world as a place of all kinds of animals, monuments and people. We can do the political after we have finished with India.

Stick one picture a day, say what you have stuck and where you have stuck them. Example :
Day 1: The desert picture - Stick it on the map and say, "See Arjun, Sahara desert." Then do as you have done for India. Make him touch the desert picture and say, Sahara desert. 
Day 2: If he already knows camel, you could say, " See, camel in the Sahara desert". 
Add one more picture : Opera House .
Day 3: Camel in the Sahara desert of Africa. Opera House is in Sydney. Stick a walrus near Canada and say this is a walrus 
Day 4: Camel in the Sahara desert of Africa Opera House is in Sydney in Australia Walrus is in Canada. 
Remember :
1. Start the world map after you have done India for at least 2 weeks.
2. Every 6th day don't teach anything new but consolidate.

You can obtain several such pictures from where you find them and stick them on the maps as long there is no possibility of confusion - do not use similar pictures for two locations.

Aruna Raghavan can be contacted at: Dit e-mailadres is beschermd tegen spambots. U heeft Javascript nodig om het te kunnen zien.