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5. Reading to your child

by Aruna Raghavan

 

If reading is a pleasure, reading out aloud is an art. First, there is the choice of material. It should be of great interest to the listener. But more so the book should interest the person who reads aloud. Reading aloud to a child is a pleasurable albeit arduous task. You have to read and reread the book until either the book or you fall apart. You have to read it with the same enthusiasm and fun as you did the first time. And it is no use trying to skip a page or line. I know a mother, wanting to get it over with, skipped two lines of a book. The child cried for two hours. She was exhausted trying to assure her child that she did love the book, that she loved him …. So, when you choose a book, ensure you will love reading it a few million times. What kind of books should they be? Simple stories , word books or information books. They should be colourful. Check the size of the print. The younger the child the larger the print. Ensure that there are no dark smudged colours on the print. That will make it difficult for your child to see. For a child, whose language is building, it is imperative that certain phrases or word orders are repeated. That helps 'freeze' patterns and make them a part of your child's language.

Then there is the actual reading aloud. It is best if you read the book to yourself a few times. Get the book almost 'by heart' so that you are not groping for the words. Then, with the book facing your child and your child facing you, 'read out'. Here is a story that you might like to read out to your child. Rewrite the story in large print on one side of the paper. Use a marker or sketch pen preferably red or blue. Use only one colour ink. The vertical lines indicate the page breaks within a sentence so that word patterns, verb-prepositions and punctuation are taught naturally.

Roma had/ a black Labrador Retriever./ His name was Scamp. /Scamp was so black,/ he was dark as night./ He was also very naughty./ So, Roma called him/ 'Poochandi'./ Scamp had /a large basket/ to sleep in./ One evening, Roma went to her room./ And what did she see?/ Scamp was on her bed sleeping. / "Scamp, sleep in your basket," she said. At 8:30, she said,/ "Scamp, sleep in your basket."/ But Scamp did not get up. At 9:30, she said, /"Scamp, sleep in your basket."/ At 10:30 she said, /"Scamp, sleep in your basket."/ Scamp rolled his eyes /and looked away. / At 11:30, /Roma was really really angry./ "Scamp, sleep in your basket ." Scamp did not budge./ Poor Roma. /She was so tired. /Then she had an idea. / "Very well, /if you don't sleep in your basket,/ I will," said Roma./ That is why/ Scamp always sleeps on the bed /and Roma sleeps in the basket. /

This a very easy book to read. Make as many 'faces' as you can; change your voice to suit each sentence, stress the darker words. In fact, make yourself an animated version of the book. You could even give music to create sound effects! Your child can look at your face or the book and enjoy. You'd be surprised how easily your child can 'say' the book with you. You'd be creating a Robin William. And if you dramatise, you'll find you'll always do Roma's role. Your child would have worked out who the winner is!

Ultimately, no book is complete until you have extracted the 'g.k.' that the book introduces. The lead is Labrador Retriever. 'Keep busy books' have a picture book on dogs. You'll need two of the books to cut all the pictures or you'll lose the pictures from one side. Cut out the pictures and stick them at the right places on a world map. So, you could teach your three year old - Alsatians are from Alsace in France, Pekinese are from Peking in China… Then you could teach time. At first just the ones in the book. Then on different sheets, make faces of a clock and put in your child's routine. Example, 7 - time to wake up, 9 - time to have a bath etc. To give your child a picturesque speech, you could make up a number of similes: dark as night; naughty as Scamp; smart as Roma, white as grandpa's hair; sour as raw mango; soft as bed.

As said before, read out as often as your child wants. With each reading, he is 'finessing' some language pattern. And here is a secret: once your child has learnt all that he wants to from a book, he will never ask you to read it again.