Young children naturally gain knowledge of how books work just from having regular, enjoyable shared reading experiences, as noted in Conventions of print for early learners, Part 1. An important area to attend to with five or six year olds is how a child learns to look at print.
“The child must learn to attend to some features of print, the child must learn to follow rules about direction, the child must attend to words in a line in sequence, and the child must attend to letters in a word left-to-right in sequence….Attending in a left-to-right sequence when reading English is not something already programmed in the brain. It must be learned.” (Clay,p 3)
Why is the left-to-right sequence so important?
All levels of print in the English language start at the left and move towards the right. Consider that this complex language does this not only with words in sentences, but with the letters within the words, and the order pages are read in a book. The English language also has letters and words that are very different things when approached from the right as opposed to the left, for example: b/d, p/q, was/saw, no/on etc.
Regardless of cultural background, hand-dominance, learning style or disability, the fact of the matter is that to build a strong basis for reading and writing in English, the brain needs to be trained to automatically sequence print in this way.
How does one promote left-to-right sequencing in a preliterate child?
Here are some tips and tricks from seasoned teachers and parents:
- Proficient readers can model left-to-right sequencing by sliding their own finger along under the print as they read to a young child
- Place a green dot (representing ‘go’) on the left side of a writing surface or paper, and a red dot on the right side, giving the child visual symbols of where to start writing and where to stop
- Any time there is printed language (or even a math problem) that needs to be ‘checked’, model (or ask to child to do) a left-to-right finger sweep under the words
- Ensure that any counting activities start from the left side and go towards the right
- Avoid potentially confusing discussions about it, repeated demonstration has proven most successful
Next time in Conventions of print for early learners, Part 3: spacing, basic punctuation, text and special book features.
Do you have questions about reading or writing with young children? Please leave a comment below or email email@example.com.
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