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Archive for June, 2013

Literacy

Last night I had the privilege of speaking with the wonderful (now retired) teacher that both my children had in grade one and I told her about my grandson being able to read (deciphering words) before he was two.
She said, (not a direct quote): “My grandson is also a reader. There are lots of little ones reading these days. I think it is the tablets/ipads. And to think of all the work we did to get them to read in the old days.”

I had wondered what impact the computer apps had in my grandson’s ability to read. How much is “him” and his natural gift and interest in words and how much is the experiences with the computer?

And if it is the computer programs, what/when is the best timing of introduction, which programs are the best, and what is the minimum/maximum amount of time the wee ones should spend watching the programs? The last part is probably the easiest — not too much.

Balance, as I always say, is key to healthy development. Infants/toddlers need 1:1 interaction with real live human faces, voices, eyes, hands. They need time to move around, developing their muscles. They need time to sit quietly and observe their surroundings; they need exposure to music, picture books, and sensory materials. .. and perhaps they need some fun apps that teach numbers and letters.

As I have written before about the computer apps, it is important to be selective. You need something that is attention-getting BUT not high speed flashing with the bells and whistles. They need time to process the things that pop up on the screen, time to mentally make the connection between the words spoken, the symbols displayed and any other pictures that are provided at the same time. (written “C”; spoken “C”, the sound of the letter “c”; the picture of a cat.) Probably the amount of time it took you to (slowly) read the description is about the time things should be on the screen before it goes to the next letter.

It is also important to pay attention to the cues that the wee one has had enough. Are they squirming or looking away? They need a different activity. I read a book some years ago that talked about a long-term research project that showed a correlation between ADHD and parents of infants who maintained eye contact and peek-a-boo games (for example) when the babe was trying to turn away to take a break.

The turning away is a strategy to calm themselves, to regulate their emotions, stimulation etc. When we don’t allow this to happen, by forcing interaction through maintaining eye contact, for example, we are impacting the development of this skill.

Follow the child’s lead. Perhaps they aren’t interested in letters and numbers; perhaps they want the computer apps for only a couple minutes a day or maybe it is a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes in the afternoon. Maybe it is just during those car rides when they aren’t going to nap.

Balance — make sure they have a variety of experiences including during those car rides. They need to develop the ability to entertain themselves as well. And also, provide 3-d objects with the letters and numbers so that they can transfer their awareness from the computer screen to “real life”.

And finally, as all parents and educators do, we cross our fingers and hope that what we are doing is the best for each individual child.

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