Reading for the Love of Literature vs. Reading to Decode Part I March 24 2016

     Reading for the Love of Literature vs. Reading to Decode Part I



Teaching children to read is a complex task. There are mysteries connected to language development that have baffled scientists for centuries.

Likening language development to bird song, linguists determined that birds that do not learn their native song between the ages of three and four months old will perish and cannot learn the song at a different point in development. Likewise, babies learn language by babbling at a specific age. Babbling starts at five to seven months old and continues through to almost age two. Babies play with sounds, repeating and playfully trying out sounds, imitating tones of voice and vocal gestures. And if a baby is deprived of hearing the human voice to imitate during this babbling phase, the child can learn the language but will never be fluent in it, nor understand the nuances of it. It is a limited tool (Introduction to Language Development, Kensington, Sage Publishing, 2013).

In other words, children learn language through sounding, playing with sounds and gathering words together in sounds. Without hearing the sounds, children cannot deeply comprehend their mother tongue.

In early childhood programs in Waldorf schools, teachers who surround the children entrusted to them with beautiful language in stories and songs understand this. All through the morning and afternoon programs in Waldorf nursery and Kindergarten classrooms, we can hear the gentle voices and singing from the teachers in these early childhood rooms.

Children sing along with the teachers and then sing the songs at home, act out the stories they hear, repeating the words they hear. Children gather like-meaning words and make charming grammar errors while they learn how the language works. One three year old explained, for example, that he and his mother “…goed to see his grandmother,” adding “ed” to the verb as one does to make past tense, being not yet conversant in irregular verbs! Another four year old little girl answered a question by saying, “I don’t know if I am or a amn’t.” Excellent contraction rule application!

Recent research has demonstrated that children pushed to read too soon face a slump in enjoyment of reading around the age of 9 or 10 (2006 Scholastic Inc. Survey) or understand no nuances in their reading. In Waldorf schools, teachers treat reading not as a technical skill but as an artistic capacity. Understanding this means the teachers pour beautiful language over little ones with real delight in the sounds of the words, knowing that children will share this delight and imitate the sounds.

In Kindergartens and nursery programs in Waldorf schools, teachers help build foundational capacities for reading such as sequencing, mid-line crossing, symbol recognition, rhythmic patterning of verses, large and small motor skills, eye-hand coordination, translateral crawling capacities, and a host of other abilities including social ones of sharing and caring and cooking and cleaning. All proven great activities for full brain development and all needed skills for good reading.