As promised in our last edition of ‘Reading Aloud With Mummy Bloggers’, today, we are extremely pleased to share with you our interview with Toddly Mummy!
Here’s a little self-introduction from our guest, Winnie
I'm a born-again drama-mama and creative extraordinaire. I've never considered myself to have much talent in those areas. However, I've learnt that motherhood makes you discover talents you've never expected yourself to have. I work full time and spend the evenings home learning and reading with my kids.
I blog at Toddly Mummy, where I share my thoughts on parenting, fun learning moments of our home learning sessions and our outdoor adventures. I sometimes share about our favourite food too.
I have a crazy love for red bean and I don't like coffee, chilli, chips or chocolate (??!!??). Coincidentally, all starting with the letter C. I love carrots though, and cucumber, and cake.
1. Tell us more about yourself and what you do.
I'm a full time working mum who used to be a journalist and public relations specialist. Now I'm an educator with a special interest in early childhood literacy. In the evenings, I'm on my second shift, when I home learn or read with my kids.
2. Tell us more about EV and AA!
EV is a bubbly chatterbox of three years old who loves her books, painting, blowing bubbles and doing crazy pretend play with mummy.
AA is a cheeky one year old explorer who is developing an early love for books, drawing and playing tricks on grown ups.
3. As a Jolly Phonics practitioner yourself and a mother who actively engages EV in home learning, how important do you think reading aloud to EV is in her development journey? How has it helped her?
I believe that reading aloud is part of a journey to developing a child’s appreciation of books and makes the stories come alive. Listening to stories being read aloud helps develop a child’s literacy, by increasing the kids' awareness of letter sounds (also known as phonemic awareness), rhythm and the way words sound. It also helps in print awareness, that is, understanding that the printed letters and words are representations of what is being spoken, and that pages are read from top to bottom, left to right.
As a strong believer in the importance of reading aloud in the development of literacy, I do pay attention to the way I read, making sure that I pronounce each word carefully and clearly. For example. I would make sure that I pronounce the 'th' in 'three', and when saying 'cat', I would sound the last sound 't' too, so that it does not end up as 'ca'.
Such strategies not only help a child’s reading skills, but also speaking skills. EV started reading independently (http://toddlymummy.blogspot.sg/2012/11/starting-on-road-to-literacy.html) when she was two, and by three, she was able to speak in full sentences and engage in simple conversations. At one and a half years old, AA has also begun to speak words, such as ‘apple’, ‘clock’ and ‘cat’.
4. When did you first start reading to EV? What was your experience like when you first started?
I personally love books, and i wanted to inculcate that love in my kids too. Since EV was six months old, both daddy and I have been reading aloud to her daily. Generally, daddy tends to focus on English books, while I read both English and Chinese books. It is a special bonding time for us as working parents, and we look forward to it every day. Every night, we would sit back, relax and enjoy a book. It could be a simple English tale about a busy spider, or Chinese nursery rhymes. Till today, EV still looks forward to this nightly story time, which has become a family affair.
Between daddy and mummy, mummy is the more dramatic one, often using different voice levels and tones when reading aloud. I adopt different ‘voices’ when reading the lines of different characters too. Combine that with some puppet play and the kids will be chuckling and giggling. Such acting out brings the stories alive for EV and AA, and I believe helped create a love for books.
5. Did you face any challenges in keeping EV 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?
Thankfully, we have not faced much issues in keeping EV engaged when reading aloud to her, as it has become a must-do every night. Even AA is beginning to expect it every night before he sleeps. However, kids being kids, they do love exploring at this age, and there are times when they would be attracted by other things, or simply become bored with the books. What we do is to read to them in the same area every night, on a cosy mattress on our bedroom floor. It is familiar territory and minimizes the chances of them being distracted.
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.
Literacy is more than just reading. Being able to read does not mean that the child has the capability to understand the story. Having phonological awareness does not mean that the child can understand the word or even use it. To gain literacy skills, the child needs to be able to understand the word, be able to comprehend the plot and therefore the story, know that the story has a narrative structure from beginning to end, have print awareness and know that text goes from left to right, understand that different fonts on the cover indicate the title and author of the book, and be able to relate stories to their personal lives.
Visual literacy, or the ability to understand how visuals and images relate to the story, is equally important. More than just the text, the child needs to learn to ‘read’ the visual cues he sees in a book and understand them. For example, when we read the book Jonathan & Martha by Petr Horacek, the cover showed two worms eating from both sides of a pear. We did a short discussion of what we thought of that image, with questions like ‘whose names are Jonathan and Martha’ and ‘why are the worms on both sides of the pear’ and so on. This helps develop an understanding how visuals are related to a story.
Here are some fun ways to build literacy skills (http://toddlymummy.blogspot.sg/2012/11/starting-on-road-to-literacy.html).
- tell the story by describing the pictures, rather than read word for word. In this way, the child can see that a story can be told in many ways. Ask questions like ‘what do you think happens next’ to prompt the child’s thoughts and develop visual literacy.
- create crafts related to the story. Some crafts we did include a duck paper craft inspired by Eric Carle's The Ten Ducklings (http://toddlymummy.blogspot.sg/2012/03/craft-fun-10-little-rubber-ducks-paper.html).
- make it relevant to the real world. For example, stand in front of a tree and describe the different parts of it. We did that after reading The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. We also went in search of shapes in nature, after reading The Perfect Square by Michael Hall.
Having reading skills is important, but even more precious is understanding the story and loving it, loving books. Most importantly though, is that parents have to demonstrate a love for books too with a reading habit that kids can model after.
7. How do you go about picking books for EV? Are there any resources or places you go to on the web for recommendations or reviews?
I generally choose beautifully illustrated books with simple storylines, rhymes and vocabulary. Some of the authors we like include Eric Carle, Julia Donaldson and Leo Lionni. Where possible, we also read the Chinese versions of these pleasurable tales. The National Library is a great source for such books.
8. Since you do home learning for EV, do you try to pick books for EV that fit into your teaching curriculum for her? If so, can you list some examples of how you have done that?
I like to pick books that fit into our home learning curriculum where possible. For example, in November last year, we read books that started with the letters P, Q, R, S and T (http://toddlymummy.blogspot.sg/2012/11/fun-with-p-q-r-s-t.html), as we went through the alphabets. When we headed to Hong Kong in December, we also did a tot book about the Chinese city.
9. What inspired you to start the “My Favourite Children’s Author” series on your blog?
I started this series because I believe that parents have their favourite authors that they love to share with their children. At the same time, they can also share related fun activities that they have done as an extension of the authors’ books.
10. Finally, despite all the efforts and time that is needed to make reading to EV and AA a regular activity, we know it must be a rewarding experience for you nevertheless. What do you enjoy most about reading to EV and AA?
I am very happy that EV, as well as AA, enjoy our reading and home learning sessions. The bonding that we have during these times is simply heartwarming and beautiful, and it is really wonderful to watch EV learn. Often times, things may not go according to what I planned. However, I look forward to seeing the bright spark in her eyes when she has that ‘aha!’ moment, or her delightful laughter as she engages in the stories, everyday, not to mention all the hugs and kisses.
Thanks Winnie for sharing with us your wonderful journey in reading to EV and AA! Check out Winnie's blog here: http://toddlymummy.blogspot.sg/ and stay tuned for future editions of Reading Aloud With Mummy Bloggers!