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During my years as a preschool teacher, I had the opportunity to work in a bilingual school back in my native country, the Dominican Republic. The student population was mostly foreigners: Italian, French, Canadian, Spanish, Mexican, Venezuelan, Colombian, Swedish, Puerto Rican, American, Dominican, etc.
At the beginning of the school year, during teacher-to-teacher meetings, we discussed the list of students, their behavior, academic skills, strengths, weaknesses, and families. This type of meeting is normal at the beginning of every school year.
On the list was a little girl’s name. I asked about her and the teacher’s response was:
“She is new in school and in the education system, has never attended a school or had formal education, so get ready, it’s not going to be easy!”
I confess that my mind began to create the worst of the scenarios.
The first day of school came, and the little girl was very confident meeting her new classmates. Throughout the school year, she excelled in all areas—cognitive, social, motor skills, all! She was above average; it was impressive.
During one of my conversations with her mother, I asked her: How does she know so much? What are you doing with her? Tell me the secret! The mother replied:
“Nothing out of this world!”
We talked all the time, even before she learned to speak. We talked about colors, shapes, letters and numbers. Whatever was in her environment.
We read books since the day she was born.
We play together, laugh and have fun. We go to the park and she plays with her friends.
We sing songs from her favorite shows or CDs—songs that my mother sang to me.
We draw together. When I write the grocery list and my to-do list, she helps me. I share my day with her and we always try to have a good time.
That school year, I learned that with a language-rich environment, conversations, and interactions with family, friends, and neighbors (FFN) a child can have an optimal language development. That by playing, singing, creating and having fun, a child can have meaningful learnings that lead to school success.
I learned that it doesn’t take an effort out of this world. By involving our kids in simple things that we do in our everyday routine, a kid can excel.
Tips to Grow a Reader with Success:
Talk through the day: Share your experiences and thoughts with your child, let him respond and have a back and forth conversation.
Read with your child once a day: Read to them, even if you don’t have a book. Read the signs on the street, newspaper, magazines, flyers, pizza boxes, name brands, etc.
You can also create a book, write a story, make drawings together and then read it together. There are lots of letters and words around to read.
The key of playing is to have fun! You can turn an everyday routine into a game just by having fun, singing, dancing, playing “I spy” games while eating, and counting cups while cleaning. Play with your child: we are never too old to play and have fun.
Sing: Don’t be ashamed if you don’t have the best of voices. You are not in a contest and the worst that can happen is that you both start laughing at each other, and guess what? You are going to be having fun! Be confident and sing your heart out with your child; they are going to learn to be confident and not afraid. Just by singing and having fun together, you can help your child with self-esteem.
Scribble, draw and write: Encourage your child to scribble, draw or write, depending on their skills. Have pencil, pen, crayons, chalk and finger paint around them. When your child scribbles or draws, ask questions about the work and then write it as a little note on the side. By doing this you will help your kid relate written words with spoken words.
If your child is in a pre-writing stage, have modeling clay for them. Even better—cook together! Let your child help you mix and stir. If you are cooking a dough, like a cookie dough, pie crust or pizza dough, give your child a little piece of dough and let them roll, pinch, smash and have fun with it.