All I needed to do was to follow where my baby led me.
“What! Is Ida really reading Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose?!”, “She can read 40 words? Are you kidding me?” I am normally bombarded by such questions whenever a friend comes visiting us. My daughter Ida, who is about to turn 2 loves the attention but I do detect a twang of jealousy in their questions. So today I thought I would tell them, and you how to get your little one to fall in love with the written word.
It’s never too early to start reading with kids! I started reading to Ida when she was 4 months old. The book I picked up was ‘Moo Baa LALALA’. She’d smile and look happy whenever we read. I think she liked it!
By 9 months we were reading books like ‘Where is baby’s belly button’. This book was Ida’s favorite. Now she is almost 2 and we read at least 3 books during bedtime. Now a day’s her favorite book is ‘Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose’ by Julia Donaldson.
Moreover, I think we made huge strides in learning when I stopped looking at the world through my eyes but through those of my daughter. As an educator and as a parent I wondered how to introduce reading to my kid, what strategies should I use so that she starts reading. I knew that the conventional approach was all wrong because it starts from the most abstract thing, the alphabet. Think about it, what does the letter A mean? What do we mean by, A is for apple? Starting with the alphabet makes complete sense to us grownups but is it at all relevant to Ida?
1. What’s your name? If the alphabet was abstract there was nothing more concrete and relevant to little Ida than her name. So, we first started with getting her to identify her name, and then mine. Soon we widened her circle to the words around her than intrigued her.
2. Who owns this? I have placed a name tag on her things like her school bags, books, water bottles tags etc. and now she can recognize her name!! My next step is to label objects with others name too. For example, place name tags for each person at the dining table and see her recognize each person’s name.
3. What is this? “What is this” is among the most common questions a mother receives. We built on Ida’s curiosity to explore the home by tagging it. I have placed simple tags on objects around my house. When I speak to her, I point to the tags and say the word clearly. This way, she knows what words like ‘Table’, ‘Chair’, ‘Door’ and ‘Mirror’ look like and mean, all without knowing the alphabet!
4. Story time ritual: I don’t just read the story to Ida, we spend lot of time looking at the images, guessing, retelling, creating stories.
I place my finger under the words as I read them so that she knows which direction to read in. Many children even pretend to read books or newspapers by themselves. Encourage this activity and help them along.
For us reading is a ritual. We have a small mattress with colorful cushions and a tray full of books. Now a days she chooses what she wants to read and we read the book together. She holds the book; tries to flip the pages and points to her favorite characters!!
Some interesting books to start with your toddler are: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Moo Baa LALALA by Sandra Boyton, Where is Baby’s belly button by Karan Katz.
5. Let’s explore! Children are curious. They want to explore what is inside a box of soap, or toothpaste. Instead of just telling, I point to the different letters and help her read what is inside! I show the object inside as well. In this case, she gets rewarded with the answer to the question – what’s inside the box? Now for all the grocery that we get, her question is “What’s inside?”
I think that’s all there is to it! All I had to remember is what it was like to be a kid again. Just harnessing my little Ida’s curiosity and following her lead led us down all these interesting routes and I am happy to share these secrets with you so that you can have a great time with your little one. Just prepare to be shocked at how fast they can go!
While I am always Mumma first I would be remiss if I pretended to just be a super Mom. I am a trained educator and have been working in the field for 10 years. Also the organization that I work for, Mindseed* has been perfecting this approach of really unlocking the genius of each child by unlocking his potential. At Mindseed we studied the pattern of learning at kindergarten, collected learning evidences, analyzed data and based on the research, created the data driven pedagogical process of learning. Most of the ideas presented here are a result of my work with this amazing team!
*Mindseed is a chain of preschools operating in Maharashtra and Gujrat.