Kindy and preschool are all about 'pre' stuff: pre-reading, pre-number, pre-writing. In fact, pre-paration. Getting a child ready for learning, involves them learning HOW to learn. It is a cliche nowadays, to say that learning is not about the absorption of facts, but learning how to find facts, learning what facts are important, and learning where to find them. To me, though, that doesn't cut the mustard. Learning has always been about technique, and attitude, and howto. Rarely has it been about the accumulation of facts. That is an autistic response. I'll jump into the deep end: a law degree teaches one how to think critically and laterally; working in a law firm will help one to seek out facts.
In reading, the 'pre' stuff is getting toddlers to appreciate that the marks on a page are what an adult is saying, that we are 'reading' those marks close to the picture. That these marks always 'read' the same. That we are not quixotic. We don't make things up each time. That the marks go from left to right. Sure, we can describe the picture, chat about it, but that will vary each and every time. And although that has its attractions, humans crave certainty. They crave the familiar. Tthe marks tell more about the pictures in a consistent, replicable way. This can be broadened into the environment. There are marks everywhere that can be read. Like on the side of a bus, or the side of a truck, on the roof of a taxi. Or a sign on the road that says STOP, at which few cars actually stop.
Something similar goes with writing. There is a link between writing and reading. As well as reading the marks. We can write marks, and then read them and they are consistently the same. Toddlers enjoy realising the link between speaking, reading, and writing. They adore language and the control that so obviously comes from a proficiency in it.
Up here where I am keying this, Alannah sits where I am now, and I stand beside her. She can have as many pieces of paper as she wants - each piece is a quarter of A4 - and she does ask for more when she has finished.
Up until today, I have offered her a black texta, and four coloured textas. Today she would only use black, possibly because I only write with black. I make marks with the coloured textas but do not (and cannot) read those coloured marks to her. She is a most observant child - she does a heap of silent, wide-eyed watching.
Usually, I ask if she would like me to write her name. That is how it starts. But today, she said she was writing Alannah. So underneath, after she had finished, I wrote Alannah. Then she said 'Jane' just like that, and wrote it. I had not heard her say Jane before. I wrote Jane on the bottom of the sheet after Alannah. Then I asked her if she wanted me to write 'Lynn', and she gave a shy grin, and nodded. I wrote Lynn, then she wrote Lynn. Pretty much over the top of Alannah. Then, I pointed to both our writings, and said that we had written her name. And I poked her in the chest, repeating her name. All this writing can be seen in the first image.
The others followed suit, in order, Mummy, Daddy, Grandad, Ma. She knows that Ma is very short. And I think the 'stabs' (or dots) are her way of writing something short. She was very noisy when writing Ma. Nearly shouting. Yet Mummy, Daddy, and Grandad all look different from either Alannah or Ma. They are all long, with lots of ups and downs. She has seen these words lots of times. But never before have I seen her consciously set out to write them.
Today, Alannah's writing came before mine. she was writing, whereas prior to today she had been colouring in my writing. Today she was communicating, whereas prior to today she had still been listening to something. Today, she was joining in a conversation.
I *think* this understanding of writing could be going hand in hand with my asking if she would like me to read the 'words' in the book 'Rudie Nudie' which are words that appear to float across the top of the page. I read them slowly, and with great theatricality. Alannah will then use her finger to float across where the words are, and will sing-song read. I also read the pictures to her. I don't make up the story in my own words, but I point to a smile on the face of a character that might indicate happiness and pleasure. Stuff like that.
I was telling this to Alannah's Mummy that evening. And it transpires that on Tuesday, when they had been at Camp Cove, before the rain began, another push-forward had manifested itself. To quote Kirsten:
Yesterday at the beach I asked her what she wanted me to write and she said Alannah. I wrote Alannah. What next? Mummy. I wrote Mummy. Ma. I wrote Ma. What about Grandad? Nod. Daddy. Etc. I wrote them lots of times because the waves kept washing the words away.
|'Rudie Nudie', written and illustrated by Emma Quay, ABC Books, 2011|