ST Jan 30, 2008This article makes me feel a little sad. It's not that difficult for parents to teach their little kids to read.
Revamp to Reading Scheme Ups Its Pass Rate
Instead of remedial lessons, English Learning Support Programme focuses on skills
By Ho Ai Li
AN IMPROVED version of a programme that helps pupils who are weak in English has led to higher passing rates for them, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said yesterday.
The scheme, known as the Learning Support Programme (LSP) for English, emphasises pronunciation and recognition. Under it, pupils who had barely understood two-letter words later learnt how to read long passages and passed their exams.
Around 65 per cent of the 402 Primary 2 pupils in this pilot scheme eventually made the grade compared to only 40 per cent previously, the ministry said.
The new scheme has made such a difference that it has been rolled out in all primary schools.
Around 5,600 pupils who are less proficient in reading than their peers will come under this scheme. This comprises up to 14 per cent of each Primary 1 cohort.
While the old lessons were remedial and no different from the usual English classes, the new ones focus on skills, said Ms Thoo Mei Lan, a senior reading specialist at MOE.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Masagos Zulkifli gave reporters an update yesterday, saying that the ministry had looked into improving the LSP as its pass rate had been 'hovering at 40 per cent for a long time'.
Many pupils start Primary 1 not being able to read words like 'on' or 'is', said Ms Thoo.
Now, they are taught to recognise the letters of the alphabet and to decode and spell words. After going through the programme, they should be able to read even polysyllabic words such as 'sapphire', she added.
My son knew all the letters of the alphabet even before he could talk. (If you wrote out all 26 letters of the alphabet, he would be able to correctly point out whatever letter you randomly asked him to point out). Before he could even hold a pen properly, he could already spell words like “cat”, “dog” or “house”.
My daughter is three years old and can recognize probably around 200 different words with no conscious effort. She has a good grasp of phonics and that enables her to break down more complicated words (“COM-PLI-CA-TED”) and figure out how they sound, even if she doesn’t know the meaning.
What’s the simplest way to teach a toddler his ABCs? Put him in front of a TV, and play a Sesame Street VCD. That’s it.
As the child progresses, you substitute with more advanced VCDs. I highly recommend “Between the Lions”, for kids who have learned their ABCs and moving on to learn simple words. The storylines are so wickedly humorous and entertaining and the music so good that as an adult, I enjoy watching the show too.
Many people think that TV is bad for kids, but that has not been my experience. In my opinion, it largely depends on what programmes you let them watch. These days, plenty of excellent children’s shows are available. You just have to choose intelligently.
Of course, books are also of vital importance.
The trick to teaching a little kid to read is to make it fun. There should be no coercion or pressure – it would kill the kid’s natural joy for learning.
Buy a wide variety of children’s books and leave them in your kid’s room. Always let the kid choose what he wants to read. If the kid loses interest halfway and doesn’t want to read anymore, just stop right then.
Where can you get lots of good children’s books, without burning a hole in your wallet? Look out for the book sales by Times or the National Library, at the Singapore Expo. At these events, books go at extra cheap prices. Buy in bulk. I go to these events with my suitcase, no kidding.
If you don’t want to wait for these events, go to the Children’s Book Store on the 4th floor of Bras Basah Complex. This is a place where kindergartens and playschools regularly source for children’s books. You get brand new books here at very cheap prices – most books would be between $3 and $8.
When you read to your child, be sensitive to the material. Different books can be used, and are designed to be used, in different ways.
Don’t read like a tape recorder. Keep the process interactive. Give the kid time to point and poke at the pictures. Before you turn the page, ask the kid to guess what’s going to happen next.
Read dramatically. Act out the story as you go along. Ask your child supply the sound effects (for example, if you are reading a story about the Dark, Dark Woods, ask him to howl like a lonely wolf).
As your child’s reading skills improve, take turns with him to do the reading – get him to try reading the next word, or sentence or paragraph. Invite questions – talk about the animals, or the flowers, or different countries, or good manners, or whatever the book is about.
Young kids often like to read the same book again and again. This is normal – they need the repetition to learn. Don’t be impatient or bored. Get innovative in the way you read. Entertain them, and yourself.
Reading with your child is a good way to bond. It’s also like aerobic exercise. 20 minutes a day, three or four times a week, is enough for excellent results.