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Reading! (Chapter One)

It’s summer! Fun is in the air and the smiles are ear to ear. As they should be!

For our children, specifically the littlest ones, every summer day should be easy like Sunday morning. While reading – or any other “schoolish” activity – may not be easy or naturally enjoyable for all little ones, the way in which we go about introducing them to reading CAN be easy like Sunday morning. 

An interest or curiosity in reading is the first thing that needs to develop on the journey to full literacy. Babies should be introduced to books as early as birth. Of course, we’re not teaching them to read then, but the warmth of dad’s embrace, the melodious voicing as he reads, and the high-contrast images printed on the books he’s showing baby develop a positive association with reading and books in general. And there’s your start. 

Once that basic interest is established and language comprehension develops further, books become accessible and repetitive sources of both linguistic information and speech sound patterns that are interesting, repetitive and necessary for both reading and speech development. What’s happening at an astounding rate in the brain is something called “synaptic pruning”, which is essentially the strengthening of neural pathways based on exposure. So, the more a child hears various speech sounds and patterns represented in books, the more established their neural pathways become and the more attuned they are to the speech sounds of their language. This skill is called “phonological awareness” and is an absolutely necessary foundation for later reading skills (and for speech skills, as well). 

We certainly don’t want reading to be a chore. Summer is a great opportunity to read without “working” on reading. Read Dr. Seuss around the campfire. Sing along from a book of nursery rhymes. Grab a Stephen King book. Um, not to read to the kids, but for you to enjoy on an easy Sunday morning. Because kids also learn by watching: if they see dad enjoying a book, there must be something about those weird squiggly lines on that page!   


Mohamed (Mo) Oshalla, MHSc.,
Speech-Language Pathologist & Executive Director,
Ontario Speech & Language Services


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