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The power of storytime and reading

Photographs: Pexels

Text: Monika Pedersen

One of the best lifelong gifts you can give a child is an education, especially the basics of numeracy and literacy. Learning these skills and other fundamental ones begins much earlier than starting nursery or primary school. It starts with all the interactions, activities, and means of stimulation a parent provides from birth.


One important activity is reading to a baby and having him/her touch the pages of a book and enjoy the colourful pictures within. As a baby grows, the activity becomes more enriching.

Children enjoy stories read to them at home, especially at bedtime. Reading before a child goes to sleep often helps him/her sleep more soundly, for a certain comfort and reassurance emanate.

Moreover, reading to a child early on has other positive advantages. It helps a child’s language skills by absorbing word patterns and vocabulary, which will come into play when they learn to speak and interact with others.

Researchers argue that a child in their formative years who has had good exposure to storytime has a better academic pathway.

Teachers continue the thread by delivering story time regularly at school. Reading a cross-section of books or poems helps build a child’s understanding of the world around them and develops a sense of empathy towards others. By discussing the story, the characters, and their feelings and relating them to their own lives, a child learns to appreciate others, different cultures, and alternative perspectives.

Then, a huge step occurs, usually between the ages of five and six, when children learn to read for themselves.

"Reading gives you wings."

How does a child learn to read?

There are two primary schools of thought regarding teaching a child to read.

Whole word approach

The first is known as the ‘whole word approach’, where a child learns to read by being systematically exposed to ‘sight’ or frequently seen words, which are slowly memorised. The focus is on learning the word and not breaking it into sounds.

This approach embraces literature and various reading sources, so a child has a lot of exposure to different materials, contexts, and experiences.

It also involves teaching children to use contextual cues to guess the meaning of a printed word, so pictures are essential to make connections and to give the words meaning.

Phonic sounds and decoding

The other approach to reading involves learning the sounds of letters. Although a child is taught the alphabet and its sounds in a particular order, phonic letter sound learning does not use this order. It uses a special order to teach and build up simple words.

Children are taught each letter by learning the sound and the name of the letter. Part of the process involves a song and a story that repeats the letter sound being taught. Visuals are also used so a child’s senses are truly engaged to drill the sound into memory.

The first letter group is: ‘ s, a, t, i, p, n,’ followed by the second group, ‘c k, e, h, r, m, d’, the third, ‘g, o, u, l, f, b’, the fourth ‘ai, j, oa, ie, ee, or’, the fifth ‘z, w, ng, v, oo, oo’, the sixth’ y, x, ch, sh, th, th’, and the final group, ‘qu, ou, oi, ue, er, or’.

The groupings are constructed so that very simple words can be blended together in each section. For example, after learning the sounds in the first grouping, words such as ‘sat’, ‘pin’, and ‘tan’, among others, can be understood. The words in the groupings are built upon, so more words can be learned. A series of reading books have been developed to complement this reading process.

When a child comes across a new word, s/he can use the skills taught to pronounce the sounds, run them together, and sound out the new word.

I can read!

A child can read with a lot of encouragement, consistent practice, energy and confidence!

It is a fantastic journey, and the day that a child can read alone, just with an adult by their side for comfort, brings an indescribable joy to a child. As a teacher or parent, it is a milestone to be cherished and celebrated.


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