At My Imagination Kingdom, we are constantly looking to bring you fresh and relevant content that might help add some spark to the next read-aloud experience you share with your child. Today, we are really excited to reveal our new “Reading Aloud With Mummy Bloggers” series, where we invite a local mummy blogger to share with us her thoughts and personal experiences as she embarked on this amazing journey of self-discovery and bonding with her child.
To launch this series, we are delighted to have with us Alicia, mother of four-and-a-half-year-old Dumpling, phonics instructor, homeschooler and SuperMom from BeanieNUs!
Here’s a little self-introduction from our guest, Alicia
I am a reformed perfectionist and a caffeine addict based in Singapore. Having to battle post natal depression shortly after birth, I have definitely learnt that motherhood throws you the most unpredictable curve balls. I am also a working mum who homeschools my daughter (fondly known as Dumpling) in the evenings.
1. Tell us more about yourself and what you do.
I am a working mum and a caffeine addict. My day job revolves around Marketing and Corporate Communications while my evening ‘job’ is that of a homeschooling mum!
2. Tell us more about Dumpling!
Dumpling is a typical, active pre-schooler who loves the outdoors and playdates. She also has a voracious appetite for books and loves pretend play where she gets to be the “Mummy” instead. J
3. As a phonics instructor yourself and a mother who homeschools Dumpling, how important do you think reading aloud to Dumpling is in her development journey? How has it helped her?
Reading aloud is a daily activity for us and has been that way since Dumpling was less than one year old. Being a working mum, I treasure whatever time that I have, after work, with Dumpling and that is how we started reading aloud. Through the constant and consistent exposure, reading also becomes a pleasure where we have loads of fun acting out. I personally believe that this has helped create a love for books in Dumpling’s case.
In addition to the bond, reading aloud also helps to raise phonemic awareness in children which increases their sensitivity to letter sounds. Dumpling is an early reader and started reading independently around 2 years old.
4. When did you first start reading to Dumpling? What was your experience like when you first started?
I started reading aloud when she was less than a year old. In addition to being a phonics instructor, I am also a certified Baby Signing instructor hence as we read nursery rhyme and stories, we would often sing and sign to it.
Because I believe in the ‘play learning’ route, this was incorporated into our reading aloud sessions and Dumpling loved the ‘reading/singing’. We would also break out into dances and groove to some rhymes CD. Having said that, there were also some days when Dumpling would just walk away.
5. Did you face any challenges in keeping Dumpling engaged when you’re reading to her? What tips would you give our readers to help them become better at reading aloud to their children?
As shared above, young children do walk away because by nature, they learn by exploring at that age. That is actually very common as children this young are active and they tend to explore as they basically learn through touch, taste, sound, etc. So what I did was to read to her in an enclosed area (play yard / room) and dramatize certain parts. I’d suddenly go “wow, look at the turnip! It is huge! Look at how big it is!” More often than not, because of my tone, she’d walk over for a peep.
Gradually she began to linger around more before progressing to sitting on my lap while being read to. Some of my fondest memories are of her seated between my legs, my lips just a tad above hers where I’d plant kisses, smell her head and read on. J
6. How would you advise our readers to go about using reading to improve their child’s literacy skills? Give us 3 things they can do.
I do draw a line between ‘literacy’ and ‘reading skills’ because to me, they are vastly different. Having phonological awareness and being about to sight read do not mean that a child is able to understand the story. Literacy as a whole means much more:
- understanding of the word(s)
- able to apply/ use the word(s) correctly
- understand story sequence
- able to comprehend the plot
- able to discuss the story
- able to relate personal experiences / have thoughts on the story
So, I'd rather my child love books, understand the above than just being able to recognise words. And for that, truly the best tip would be to read, read and read a lot with your child. When your child hears you read daily, he is exposed to the sound of the language and the beauty of the story.
Some suggestions to make reading more fun would be:
- Use puppets whenever you can or magnetic sets and felt scenes.
- Extend the story by doing a craft - I did a storybox with Dumpling on the Chinese version of The Ugly Duckling to keep her engaged.
- Make it relatable by bringing him/her for a field trip. For e.g. you can visit a butterfly park / farm after reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. We did that and ‘grew’ our own butterfly. Dumpling got to witness the entire metamorphosis process too.
7. How do you go about picking books for Dumpling? Are there any resources or places you go to on the web for recommendations or reviews?
When Dumpling was younger, we went with well-known children’s authors such as Eric Carle, Bill Martin, etc., who provided us with great moments in the evenings. I chose these authors partly because of the bright illustrations and the easy rhymes. The book list from BFIAR is also a good way to start; many of the listed books are truly lovely titles with a great storyline and introduce good vocabulary. I do not have any specific resources / websites to go to for recommendations but I often head to Amazon to read the reviews. Additionally, you can also view the inside pages for some titles at Amazon.
When the child is older (2 and above), you can even extend to Tot Pack activities which you can print them free-of-charge off the internet. Here’s a link for these printables. I do also look out for award winning titles such as those which are awarded Caldecott Medals. The illustrations and the storyline of those titles are usually beautiful and a pleasurable read.
8. Since you homeschool Dumpling, do you try to pick books for Dumpling that fit into your teaching curriculum for her? If so, can you list some examples of how you have done that?
When she was younger, we went through the BFIAR list so I would reserve the books via the National Library Board website and pick them up at a later convenience. Sometimes we would also explore a particular title if that month is the author’s birthday month – for e.g. in March last year, we explored Green Eggs and Ham and Lorax. Other times we would also work around a field trip: here we did an air transport theme in-line with the Singapore Air Show.
9. You’re a fantastic example of a Super Mom! What with a full-time job, an active blog and homeschooling Dumpling, how do you find the time to read to Dumpling? Is there any routine that you have worked out to fit reading into?
Thank you for the kind words! If you can only see how disorganised I am at times, you would not call me a Super Mom! LOL. I homeschool Dumpling every evening from 7+pm. We target to read an English and a Chinese title every evening. When she was younger, we would extend to craft and using printable packs. Now that she is older, after reading the title, I will usually work with her on Creative Expression which sometimes includes a bit of writing or extend into some simple Science experiments (we love Science and titles from The Magic School Bus series is a delight).
I hardly go out on weekday nights because homeschooling is a choice that we make and this is a commitment that I seek to meet. Instead I meet my friends over lunch and mummy friends for weekend playdates.
10. Finally, despite all the efforts and time that is needed to make reading to Dumpling a regular activity, we know it must be a rewarding experience for you nevertheless. What do you enjoy most about reading to Dumpling?
I count my blessings daily that we are able to homeschool. There are sacrifices to be made and there are ‘tough days’ too when nothing seems to go according to plans. But I do consider it a privilege. The “togetherness” during the reading time that we have is beautiful. Being ‘present’ and being able to be part of her learning process is a gift. I am often humbled when I am able to witness the wonderment in her eyes when she manages to uncover a new discovery and encouraged by her squeals of delight and hugs.
Thank you Alicia! For sharing with us your reading aloud journey with Dumpling! For all of you out there who are interested in finding out more about Alicia and her blog, visit BeanieNUs! In the meanwhile, stay tuned for our next interview with Winnie from Toddly Mummy!