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How to Develop your Child’s Reading Abilities

The Shine Centre in Cape Town offers tips on how to improve your child’s literary skills

Limited literacy skills are a growing concern amongst parents and educational specialists. According to the United Nations Development Programme Report of 2009, South Africa is ranked 107th on the literacy scale. Combine this with a culture of watching movies and playing computer games and literacy skills are under threat.

The Shine Centre in Cape Town, a volunteer driven NGO which has developed an innovative approach to mentoring second language learners, suggests that parents can play an important role in changing this worrying trend by introducing books to their children at a young age and by reading to their children at home.

Former remedial teacher and Founder Director of Shine, Maurita Glynn Weissenberg says, “Learners who fall behind during the Foundation Phase (Grade R to Grade Three) rarely recover their enthusiasm for learning and are the most likely to drop out of school in later years.”

While there is no quick fix, there are some practical steps which can be taken at home to improve your child’s literacy skills. Maurita offers some tips for parents.

0 – 3 years

It’s never too early to start reading to your child, or to tell them stories. They will love listening to the sound of your voice. Repeat favourite stories, again and again to further build their language skills.

3 – 5 years

Make sure your children own a few books of their own. Let them pretend to read. When you are reading to them, get them to join in by turning pages and guessing what happens next.

5 – 8 years

As your child begins to learn how to read it is important that they receive lots of support and encouragement. You can do this through ‘paired reading’, which is a useful technique and involves reading along with your child. Let them choose what they’d like to read. This also improves their fluency and self-confidence. At this stage they should be encouraged to read as many books at their level as possible, you can ask your child’s teacher or have a look at the books the children are using at school as a guide. In general a child learning to read should be reading books with just one sentence per page plus a picture that will give them a clue to the text. Do not be in a rush to move to more challenging books.

Maurita advises parents that it is important to read to your child as often as possible. “Find a quiet moment in the week and go on a journey together. Books can take us places, teach us things, make us laugh and in this way we share golden moments with our children. It is also important to read in the language you speak at home.”

“Read yourself, if you want children to read, as children copy what adults do. If you don’t have the time or patience to read with your child then be creative and ask a friend, family member or neighbour to do it for you in exchange for a favour,” she continues.

For more information on paired reading, becoming a Shine volunteer or sponsoring a child on the programme, please contact Kerry White on 084 615 4680, visit www.theshinecentre.org.za  or email shinecentrecapetown@gmail.com

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