Parents play a key role in fostering children’s love of reading



Reading books with your child means children learn to connect reading with feelings of warmth and sharing.
(Shutterstock)

Lorraine Reggin, University of Calgary; Penny Pexman, University of Calgary; Sheri Madigan, University of Calgary, and Susan Graham, University of Calgary

Learning to read is one of the most important developmental achievements of childhood, and it sets the stage for later school and life success. But learning to read is not straightforward. As child development researchers, parents often ask us how they can help their children to become good readers.

Parents can play a key role in supporting the development of children’s early language skills and fostering a love of reading, before and after children start formal schooling.

Literacy begins early

The building blocks of literacy are laid down during infancy. Even newborn babies’ brains are sensitive to the sounds and complexities of language. Babies don’t just need to hear language, they need to participate in language too.

Even though babies may only be able to say sounds like “ga,” “ba,” and “da,” they benefit from having these sounds repeated back to them in what are called conversational turns. A recent study found that the number of conversational turns between babies and parents is a key ingredient to building language skills.

The number of conversational turns between babies and parents is key to building language skills.
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So, when your baby says “ba,” respond. You can repeat “ba” or ask “Is that so?” or try to guess what they are saying (“Did you see a ball?”).

We know that babies who hear more words, speak more words and who hear more complex language produce more complex language later in childhood. These language skills help children get ready to read.

Early childhood

As babies turn into toddlers and preschoolers, their language gets more complex and they start to build the knowledge of words that they will eventually need for reading. By building language skills, preschoolers are also developing the attention, memory and thinking skills that will prepare them for school.

Preschoolers benefit from having books read to them. When parents read to children, it helps build children’s vocabulary and expands conversations. You can start with short picture books like Goodnight Moon and move onto longer picture books like Where the Wild Things Are or Corduroy.

Preschoolers also learn important language skills during play. Board games, games like “I Spy,” singalongs and acting out stories all help build the language skills they need for learning to read. When parents interact and talk out loud with toddlers and preschoolers during play, it supports the child’s learning of sounds and words.

Reading books and talking with your child helps your child build a positive attitude towards language and literacy.
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Having conversations, reading books to your child and playing with your child are all activities that help your child build a positive attitude towards language and literacy. They will learn to connect reading with feelings of warmth and sharing. You can encourage them to choose the books, and the place where you will read them, and in turn start to foster their identity as a reader. These positive experiences support your child’s emotional and intellectual development.

Ready to read

Researchers have long debated how children learn how to read, and how best to teach them. Today, it is clear that children need explicit phonics instruction (learning which sounds match different letters), lots of practice, and support for understanding written material. This means that children must learn how to “crack the code” of reading.

Children need to learn that lines, curves and dots make up a letter and that each letter matches to a sound. Although the English language has 26 letters, these letters make up 44 different sounds. Children start to learn that the letters are paired up with certain sounds through various activities at school, and you can help your child practise when they read out loud to you at home.

Once children have learned to map sounds to letters, they need to learn to map the sounds to meaning or match the sounds to the words they know. They also need to build reading fluency. Fluency means reading accurately, smoothly and with expression. As a child gains fluency, they read more naturally, faster and more easily.

As a child gains reading fluency, they read faster.
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Parent tips for early readers

Most children begin home reading programs in Grade 1 and continue with home reading into grades 2 and 3. Below are some suggestions for nurturing and building a positive home reading experience.

  1. Try to set aside at least 15 minutes a day for reading time.

  2. Consider the factors that set reading up for success in your home. For example: What times of day might work best for your child to do their home reading with you? Where do they most like to read, on the couch or in their bed?

  3. Practise reading books that are simple and easy for your child to repeat. If your child cannot get through the book, the level may be too advanced.

  4. Point out periods and commas where your child should pause, and talk about using different voices. Point out different kinds of expressions. For example, if the character in the story said “STOP IT,” you could explain to your child that they could use a louder voice.

  5. Indulge and support your child’s love of certain stories. The best way for children to become fluent readers on their own is through practice, and repeating beloved stories is one way to encourage practice.

  6. Continue to read to your child. When parents read, children can listen and enjoy books that they wouldn’t be able to read yet. This helps build their vocabulary and enjoyment.

  7. Check your child’s understanding of the book. You can help your child by asking questions before, during and after reading. Your questions create opportunities for conversation. You might ask questions like:

“Why do you think the children snuck downstairs?”

“Does this story remind you of anything we have done?”

“Leaped is an interesting word. What does that mean? Do you know another word we could have used there?”

Then you could mention jumped, hopped or skipped.

Some children will learn to read more quickly than others, but all children need practice to become skilled readers. A consistent home reading program can start children on the path to literacy and all of its benefits.

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Lorraine Reggin, PhD student, Cognitive Psychology, University of Calgary; Penny Pexman, Professor of Psychology, University of Calgary; Sheri Madigan, Assistant Professor, Canada Research Chair in Determinants of Child Development, Owerko Centre at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, University of Calgary, and Susan Graham, Professor and Director, Owerko Centre, University of Calgary

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Imagining both utopian and dystopian climate futures is crucial – which is why cli-fi is so important



贝莉儿 NG/Unsplash, FAL

Bernadette McBride, University of Liverpool

We are headed towards a future that is hard to contemplate. At present, global emissions are reaching record levels, the past four years have been the four hottest on record, coral reefs are dying, sea levels are rising and winter temperatures in the Arctic have risen by 3°C since 1990. Climate change is the defining issue of our time and now is the moment to do something about it. But what?

Society often looks to culture to try and make some sense of the world’s problems. Climate change challenges us to look ahead, past our own lives, to consider how the future might look for generations to come – and our part in this. This responsibility requires imagination.

So, it is no surprise that a literary phenomenon has grown over the past decade or two which seeks to help us imagine the impacts of climate change in clear language. This literary trend – generally known by the name “cli-fi” – has now been established as a distinctive form of science fiction, with a host of works produced from authors such as Margaret Atwood and Paolo Bacigalupi to a series of Amazon shorts.


Faber & Faber

Often these stories deal with climate science and seek to engage the reader in a way that the statistics of scientists cannot. Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour (2012), for example, creates emotional resonance with the reader through a novel about the effects of global warming on the monarch butterflies, set amid familiar family tensions. Lauren Groff’s short story collection Florida (2018) also brings climate change together with the personal set amid storms, snakes and sinkholes.

The end to come

Cli-fi is probably better known for those novels that are set in the future, depicting a world where advanced climate change has wreaked irreversible damage upon our planet. They conjure up terrible futures: drowned cities, uncontainable diseases, burning worlds – all scenarios scientists have long tried to warn us about. These imagined worlds tend to be dystopian, serving as a warning to readers: look at what might happen if we don’t act now.

Atwood’s dystopian trilogy of MaddAddam books, for example, imagines post-apocalyptic futurist scenarios where a toxic combination of narcissism and technology have led to our great undoing. In Oryx and Crake (2003), the protagonist is left contemplating a devastated world in which he struggles to survive as potentially the last human left on earth. Set in a world ravaged by sea level rise and tornadoes, Atwood revisits the character’s previous life to examine the greedy capitalist world fuelled by genetic modification that led to this apocalyptic moment.




Read more:
‘Cli-fi’ novels humanise the science of climate change – and leading authors are getting in on the act


Other dystopian cli-fi works include Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife (2015), and the film The Day After Tomorrow (2004), both of which feature sudden global weather changes which plunge the planet into chaos.

Dystopian fiction certainly serves a purpose as a bleak reminder not to act lightly in the face of environmental disaster, often highlighting how climate change could in fact compound disparities across race and class further. Take Rita Indiana’s Tentacle (2015), a story of environmental disaster with a focus on gender and race relations – “illegal” Haitian refugees are bulldozed on the spot. A. Sayeeda Clarke’s short film White (2011), meanwhile, tells the story of one black man’s desperate search for money in a world where global warming has turned race into a commodity and circumstances lead him to donate his melanin.

The future reimagined

It is this primacy of the imagination that makes fictional dealings with climate change so valuable. Cli-fi author Nathaniel Rich, who wrote Odds Against Tomorrow (2013) – a novel in which a gifted mathematician is hired to predict worst-case environmental scenarios – has said:

I think we need a new type of novel to address a new type of reality, which is that we’re headed toward something terrifying and large and transformative. And it’s the novelist’s job to try to understand, what is that doing to us?

As the UN 2019 Climate Action Summit attempts to bring the 2015 Paris Agreement up to speed, we need fiction that not only offers us new ways to look forward, but which also renders the inequalities of climate change explicit. It is also key that culturally we at least try to imagine a fairer world for all, rather than only visions of doom.

When now is the time that we need to act, the rarer utopian form of cli-fi is perhaps more useful. These works imagine future worlds where humanity has responded to climate change in a more timely and resourceful manner. They conjure up futures where human and non-human lives have been adapted, where ways of living have been reimagined in the face of environmental disaster. Scientists, and policy makers – and indeed the public – can look to these works as a source of hope and inspiration.

Futures are built out of our collective imaginaries.
RomanYa/Shutterstock.com

Utopian novels implore us to use our human ingenuity to adapt to troubled times. Kim Stanley Robinson is a very good example of this type of thinking. His works were inspired by Ursula Le Guin, in particular her novel The Dispossessed (1974), which led the way for the utopian novel form. It depicts a planet with a vision of universal access to food, shelter and community as well as gender and racial equality, despite being set on a parched desert moon.

Robinson’s utopian Science in the Capital trilogy centres on transformative politics and imagines a shift in the behaviour of human society as a solution to the climate crisis. His later novel New York 2140 (2017), set in a partly submerged New York which has successfully adapted to climate change, imagines solutions to more recent climate change concerns. This is a future that is mapped out in painstaking detail, from reimagined subways to mortgages for submarines, and we are encouraged to see how new communities could rise against capitalism.

This is inspirational – and useful – but it is also is crucial that utopian cli-fi novels make it clear that for every utopian vision an alternative dystopia could be just around the corner. (It’s worth remembering that in Le Guin’s foundational utopian novel The Dispossessed, the moon’s society have escaped from a dystopian planet.) This is a key flaw in the case of Robinson’s vision, which fails to feature the wars, famines and disasters outside of his new “Super Venice”: the main focus of the book is on the advances of western technology and economics.

Forward-thinking cli-fi, then, needs to imagine sustainable futures while recognising the disparities of climate change and honouring the struggles of the most vulnerable human and non-humans. Imagining positive futures is key – but a race where no one is left behind should be at the centre of the story we aspire to.


This article is part of The Covering Climate Now series

This is a concerted effort among news organisations to put the climate crisis at the forefront of our coverage. This article is published under a Creative Commons license and can be reproduced for free – just hit the “Republish this article” button on the page to copy the full HTML coding. The Conversation also runs Imagine, a newsletter in which academics explore how the world can rise to the challenge of climate change. Sign up here.The Conversation


Bernadette McBride, PhD Candidate in Creative Writing, University of Liverpool

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.