The Change in Approach to Preparing Children to Learn to Read and Write
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Readiness to learn to read must be shaped at the level of preschool education. One of the innovative methods of teaching pre-school children to read is the natural language teaching method developed by Wenda Pye. The programme consists in the teaching of listening, speaking, reading and writing using games and creative activities. The learning process is accompanied by children’s creative activity. Therefore, the natural language teaching method is perceived not only as the process of language learning but also, and most importantly, as educating through language, where language is both a means of communication and a thinking tool. The concept is based on the belief that child’s language is a specific phenomenon determined, on the one hand, by natural child development and, on the other hand, by child’s interactions with the environment. Consequently, child’s language education should be enhanced by a subtle help from an adult, who – by the use of provocation, arrangement and gentle encouragement to take actions – opens up a new, unknown space to the child, i.e. the world of writing. Language plays a role of a factor that integrates various fields of knowledge and different types of child’s activity in reality perception and acquisition. Natural situations used in the teaching of reading, which create occasional educational situations, inspire the child and simultaneously introduce him into the world of writing. Thus, learning to read should be accompanied by learning to write. The discovery of new values that the novel language of signs has with regards to information acquisition increases child’s motivation to verbalise his own thoughts and to learn to read and write. Emotional engagement facilitates memorizing a story or new vocabulary. It sensitizes the child to the graphical, phonological and semantic dimension of a given word by making a direct link between the graphical representation and the sound. A point of departure for natural language teaching is a short and simple text and illustrations that highly relate to it. Texts form stories included in little books entitled “Sunshine Library”. There is a series of 40 books designed for pre-school children self-study of reading. The books are graded at four levels of difficulty. Didactic aids used in the series are very well organised and introduce already consolidated semantic structures, providing new contents regarding language competence at a slow pace. Each book is composed of three stories. Typically, the first story includes one text with carefully selected new language structures. The following two stories serve the purpose of material consolidation. The essence of the books are pictures, which should be in line with the text because the basis of reading is to associate an image with its graphical representation. The print used in the books is large, legible, the words are clearly separated, and every sentence starts with a new line. The stories are simple and presented with repetitive sentence patterns. Natural language teaching develops and deepens child’s natural willingness to speak, read or draw graphical symbols. Speech is here not only the foundation of child’s expression and learning to read and write, but also a support for child’s paralanguage activity. The article presents the use of the natural language teaching method in pre-school children education.
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