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Early start promotes literacy in children

Published: Friday, April 26, 2013 11:07 a.m. CDT

Children ages 6 to 9 are a delight. Picture the one or more you know. They enjoy good motor skills and are able to reason sometimes better than the adults in their lives. Their erratic eating habits and not wanting to shower may aggravate you. Their ongoing physical activity includes building their self-image through competition. Remember those days when you could do absolutely anything. I went from being a ballerina to being an ambassador to being a journalist. What about you? What could you do when you were these ages?

During these years, school and learning are generally enjoyed and most meet academic challenges. Crayons and markers are exchanged for pencils and pens. They challenge you to table and board games. Left to their own resources they recover quickly from failure and learn to use good manners and develop secret codes and languages. Though they aren’t perfect, this is a fun age because their individuality develops and potential pops out all over.

Emotionally these 6- to 9-year-olds are becoming much more independent and exhibit stress in various ways, which means they become less cooperative, but want responsibility and attention. They imitate older children and adults and tend to love or despise their teacher(s).

Socially, this age group feels secure in a group and they talk and talk to prove a point. They have a special friend and want to be involved in a school sport. They like to compete with peers and realize they have a father as well as a mother. Girls develop interest in clothes and boys often develop interest in gutter language. They often like to collect things. I remember at that age becoming obsessed with collecting pieces of ribbon, mounting them, and labeling them. At age 15, I looked at my collection and pitched it wondering why it had been so important.

Literacy development takes many encounters. Promoting literacy is in modeling by reading often and reading a variety of items ourselves. The more this age sees us reading and the more variety they see us read, the more they’ll imitate literacy. This age still likes to be read to, even on your lap, but they often like to read to you. They don’t like boring voices and they love drama. The most important idea for children to catch at this stage, in fact at all stages, is that granddad/grandma can read to me; uncle/aunt can read to me; brother/sister can read to me; babysitter/friend can read to me and I can read to them.

Other important concepts for a child to catch are that reading is fun, and I’ll be good at it too. Those are pretty powerful statements for anyone. No one really knows how powerful an effect we can have on the future of a child from six to nine.

It is delightful to overhear comments such as: “Could I finish my book before going to bed?” “Jane, let me finish this story before coming out to play?” “Mom, would you read this book to me again?” “Dad, when you read to me tonight would you read...?” “Please tell my babysitter to read...” “Grandma please read the new book to me that you bought me last month.” “Grandpa would you do story hour next week at school for my class?” “Thank you Aunt Alice for my new book. I’ve been wanting it so much. I didn’t know you knew which one I wanted.” “This year for Christmas could I have a subscription to...?” “Dad, is it OK if I read the book you’re reading before you finish it?” “We get to go to the library!” “Which book do you think I should read first?” “You know that book you told me about because you read it when you were young —I like it too.” “My family and I read the newspaper together on ..., so we’ll have to meet after that.”

Literacy invades our lives if we let it and it can be used for learning and enjoyment no matter what our age. We never are too young or too old. It is at our command as long as we get the basic essentials. Our country allows every one of its citizens to reach his/her potential literacy, but like any gift of any worth it requires us to accept the gift, open the gift, and use the gift. Literacy is not a walk we do alone. We need guides that lead us to its richness and we need to be a guide to lead others to its richness. I believe the pursuit of happiness, a freedom we still enjoy in this country is active; pursuit means progressing. Are you progressing in literacy; are you helping another progress in literacy? Until next week… Christine Pauley

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