The other child, whom we shall call Jane, had a poor family background. She could not identify any of the letters when she came to school. She was not a leader and did not take part in discussions. At the end of the year her marks were all C's, but the Wide Range Achievement Test showed that she had made gains of more than a year in reading and arithmetic.
What does this comparison mean? Not that children should not have prereading experiences during the preschool years, but that
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teachers should not allow the child who comes to school with a good background of reading experience to languish in idleness or devote all his energy to social activities.
With effective teaching, prereading experience should help a child to make more rapid progress in the first grade than he otherwise would. Teaching that focuses on the average or below-average learner does not help the initially better reader to make commensurate progress; he may get into the habit of underachieving.
5. Why is reading aloud to children sometimes unsuccessful?
There are many possible reasons. If the adult dislikes reading
aloud, or reads from a sense of duty, his attitude is communicated to the child. Adult and child should both enjoy the story. The child may not be quite ready for the story the parent is reading—though the parent remembers that he loved it when he was the child's age. Times change, and children's interests shift somewhat from generation to generation. Sometimes the child's unreadiness to listen may be merely temporary; something else had absorbed his attention for the moment. It is better to recognize this immediate interest than to try to override it. Older children, especially those in early adolescence, sometimes prefer an unshared reading experience. At such times they guard their private world with fierce jealousy, and resent any adult intrusion into it.
6. How can parents foster a child's love of reading?
"Liking to read just comes naturally to my child," you may say. Probably it doesn't. Without being aware of it, you have done, and are still doing, many things that cause your child to love reading and to want to read. As we said in the last chapter, he has seen you reading and has gathered that reading gives you pleasure and profit. He has listened to the enchanting stories that you have read him, and he wants to hear more than you have time to read to him. This stimulates him to want to learn to read for himself. As he looks at the books while you read to him, he begins to recognize certain words, and realizes that those black marks on white paper have meaning. Even after he has started school, you should continue to read him books that are beyond his own present reading ability; this will create further interest in the world of books that he will someday be able to explore himself.